Gov’t ministries, Article 19 commit to reform media laws

By Kebba Jeffang

The Gambia’s ministries in charge of Information and Justice and the Article 19 on 29th May signed a memorandum of understanding amongst themselves in order to realize the reform on media laws and policies in the country.

This reform according to the new report from ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure will advance the freedom of expression, access to information, citizen participation and accountability in the Republic of The Gambia.

Article 29 is a British human rights organization with a specific mandate and focus on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide founded in 1987.

The organization takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

BELOW IS THE CONTINUATION OF THE NEWS REPORT

The severe infringement on the right of freedom of expression over the past 22 years had resulted to journalists, human rights defenders and political opposition parties in the Gambia enduring repression and violence that hindered their fundamental civil liberties.

Legislation such as the Criminal Code Amendment Act No. 18 of 2004 (which widens the definition of libel and expands the class of actions or expressions that attract criminal liability) and the Newspapers Amendment Act No. 17 of 2004 (which imposes exorbitant fees for registration of media outlets) was used amongst other laws to legitimize the restrictions on freedom of expression and thereby entrenched the culture of self-censorship.

As we enter into a new era of democracy, it is imperative to build a culture of transparency, accountability and respect for the rights and freedoms of journalists and media outlets to facilitate the free flow of information and ideas necessary to guarantee their civil liberties which is crucial to the execution of their mandate.

The aim of the MOU is to support law and policy reforms by revising current laws that limit freedom of expression and independence of the media and ensure that the relevant legislation is in line with the international freedom of expression standards.

Article 19 will support the reform process by coordinating efforts through its extensive networks to raise resources to sponsor new legislations, strengthen capacity building and stakeholders consultations and where possible, to support both ministries to strengthen their internal capacity.

An Advisory Committee, composed of the three parties will be set up to provide guidance to ensure quality of the intervention and evaluate the effectiveness of the activities.  Other government ministries and relevant organizations may also be included in the Committee to provide additional expertise.

Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI)

30th MAY 2017