The Attorney General and Minister of Justice has acknowledged before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the law on sedition is unconstitutional. He is however yet to take a position on the law on false news.
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) in 2015 filed a civil suit against the Gambia government for the repeal of sedition and false publication. The case which is before the Supreme Court of the Gambia had suffered a prolonged delay. Hearing however began on Wednesday May 30 at the country’s constitutional court chaired by the Chief Justice, Hassan Jallow.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou, in addressing the court, said that since the case was filed before the installation of the new government, the court should take notice of his government’s stance on press freedom.
He said: “The matters raised [by the GPU] affect the fundamental human rights of the citizenry, especially the plaintiffs who are directly affected by the provisions of the criminal code which they seek to challenge.
“The new government has made a public commitment to respect and uphold the fundamental human rights of every person, particularly as enshrined in sections 18 to 33 including Section 25, which guarantees freedom of speech, assembly, associate, concise and movement.
“The government has also made a public commitment to repeal all laws that unjustifiably limit the exercise of those rights and have started taking concrete steps to achieve that objective. That shows the commitment and seriousness with which this government has taken to facilitate the right to freedom of speech in this country.
“[The government] also accepts that the provisions on sedition filed by the plaintiffs in this case are unjustified, disproportionate and places an unreasonable restriction on the right to free speech, and are unnecessary in a democratic society. Based on these reasons, [we] wish to abandon our statement of case in this matter.”
Following Minister Tambadou’s, the lawyer for the GPU, Hawa Sisay Sabally, pointed out that the case involved sedition and false news. She requested to know the position of the Attorney General on false news.
The Minister then clarified. “Our concession is only on sedition right now,” he said. “We are partially withdrawing because we have to review the case on false news. So, we are partially abandoning the case. We may to some extent contest the part on false news. I wish this matter was resolve in ways different from litigation.”
The case resumes Tuesday June 6