Jorurnalists in The Gambia have expressed outrage at a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed that a controversial law on false news was constitutional.
Some descriptions they gave to the ruling of May 9 were ‘outrageous, unacceptable and shocking,’ stressing their resolve to challenge the ruling.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is bad news for New Gambia, outrageous & unacceptable. The Gambia Press Union is committed & will consider measures seeking to overturn the decision by the court on laws used to suppress free speech & restrict the freedom & independence of the media,” journalist Saikou Jammeh wrote on twitter.
Whiles the Court upheld the “false publication and broadcasting” law which is in section 181A of the criminal code, as constitutional, the judges scrapped in part the coverage of “sedition” law to only protect the President of the Republic and the administration of justice.
The #Gambia Supreme Court has taken a shocking departure from what obtains in democracies around the world as it judged laws on false news, sedition as constitutional, barely few months after Ecowas Court declared those laws unlawful in a democracy #Gambia #freespeech #media
— Saikou Jammeh (@saiks2) May 9, 2018
In February 2018, a regional court of ECOWAS sitting in Abuja, Nigeria ruled that Gambian media laws were detrimental to practice of journalists and went ahead to award damages to some journalists who were gravely affected by the Jammeh-era laws.
Gambia’s media were seen as a critical component to the campaign that led to the loss of Jammeh in December 2016 polls. Jammeh’s regime was marred with claims of high handedness towards the media and political opponents.
Forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention and in some cases killing of persons who challenged his authority. Jammeh is currently on exile in Equatorial Guinea. He left at a time ECOWAS forces were ready to force him out.
His sucessor, Adama Barrow, had expertly promised to open up the media landscape of the tiny West African nation. The government has yet to respond to the apex court’s judgment.
The court has not taken into consideration how the media is changing in the country. #NewGambia deserve better
— Binta A Bah (Laxmi) (@bintabah2) May 9, 2018
Summary of the Media Law Case: Criminal defamation and false news online are declared unconstitutional. False publication is upheld as constitutional. Sedition Law gone in part it will only protect the president.
— Fatu Camara (@Fatushow) May 9, 2018
#Gambia: @pressfreedom welcomes today's Supreme Court ruling that criminal defamation is unconstitutional, but is dismayed that the court upheld laws on false publication and sedition partly to "protect" the president. https://t.co/d6yPmglQJc
— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) May 9, 2018