According to Amnesty International, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Court of Justice yesterday ruled that media laws on sedition, false news and criminal defamation violate the right to freedom of expression in Gambia.
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) filed the case in December 2015 along with four Gambian journalists in exile during the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh, namely Fatou Jaw Manneh, Lamin Fatty, Alhagie Jobe and Fatou Camara. The journalists argued that their rights, including their right to freedom of expression, had been violated by Gambia through the enforcement of laws criminalising libel, sedition and false news in the country.
Arguments were heard on 11 October 2016, at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, Nigeria. The case is supported by the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). Amnesty International filed an amicus brief in the case along with other freedom of expression organisations.
These restrictive laws are still in place. They have been challenged by the Gambia Press Union at the Supreme Court since the time of the former regime and the Attorney General conceded that they violate human rights during hearing in December 2017. The Supreme Court is expected to deliver judgment on the matter in the coming months. At the same time the government has declared its intention to repeal these laws though it is yet to do so.
It is significant to note that decisions of this court are binding.