By Kebba Jeffang
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice Aboubacarr Tambadou, has maintained that Law on false publication will be applied on people with agendas to endanger the country’s peace.
Tambadou was speaking at the launch of the Gambia Press Union’s report on Media Law Review on October 29th, at a local hotel in Kololi.
“Let me make this clear to everyone. The Gambian media has no better friends in this country, than they have in this Government. My pronouncement that the country still has applicable laws to deter irresponsible conduct was only meant to serve as a reminder to those who are determined to deliberately spread lies for the promotion of personal agendas at the expense of our fragile peace and stability,” he said.
Under the Jammeh administration the Criminal Code was amended to create a new offence of publication of false news under a new section 181A; and the penalty for such offence is a fine of not less than D50,000 and not exceeding D250,000, imprisonment for at least one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Saikou Jammeh, the Chairperson of the event, said the aim of the review of media laws is geared towards promoting advocacy, for an enabling legal environment for freedom of expression and of the press. He said the report examines the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia, International Instruments and local statutes that affect the enjoyment of the rights of the media to operate in a free and safe environment.
The President of The Gambia Press Union Sheriff Bojang Jnr, said the significance of the event is broader today than anytime because the country is transitioning in all sectors.
The booklet that was launched contains 21 pages, highlighting media laws including the Constitution, the country’s obligation under international law, the way forward, and excerpts from Supreme Court rulings among other information.
“There are still laws that need to be fought against and this institution will ensure that we will involve all stakeholders in order to create a conducive environment for the media, in the country. We will not be complacent,” he said. Bojang also briefed participants on the Union’s effort in establishing a self-regulatory body, as a Media Commission. He assured that the GPU will continue to dialogue with the relevant authorities on ensuring a free press and media.
John Njie, Chairman of TANGO on his part said it was wise to share the report with everybody; that this will be more effective than to just put them in books and pass them to the authorities. He called for responsibility in journalism practice in terms of reporting.
The Managing Editor of Foroyaa Newspaper Sam Sarr, said the development is significant. Sarr said democracy cannot thrive without the media; that through the media the government is held accountable to the people, which is essential in a democratic dispensation.
He further said for the media to play its role effectively it must be free and operate in a conducive environment. He said to facilitate this requires law and practice, which should not impede media freedom because with restrictive laws, the media’s role to generate public debate and exchange of views will be curtailed and this can have a serious impact on democracy. He also said that freedom of information law facilitates transparency and accountability.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information, Communication Infrastructure Amie Njie, said the launch of the report is timely.