'Gambian government upholds right to freedom of expression' - Justice minister

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - The government of The Gambia under the new dispensation is committed to creation of a media friendly environment, devoid of harassment and intimidation of media practitioners, in clear recognition of the right to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubacarr M. Tambadou said here on Saturday.

Commenting on media reforms in the West African nation, he said it was common knowledge that the former regime of ex-president Yahya Jammeh exhibited gross hostility to media practitioners, evidenced by the numerous laws introduced to suppress freedom of expression.

The minister's remarks related to the Gambia Press Union’s position paper to proactively complement the media reforms agenda of the government.

“Media practitioners operated under continuous harassment and oppressive laws. The Newspaper Act of 1944, the Criminal Code of 1933 and the Information and Communication Act of 2009 were all subjected to amendments with very harsh and abusive provisions designed to stifle the right to freedom of expression,” Mr. Tambadou pointed out.

In recognition of the democratic right to freedom of expression, he said the government of The Gambia under President Adama Barrow wishes to ensure that all laws relating to freedom of expression are consistent with the Constitution and international best practices.

“Media Practitioners however must recognize that freedom of the media and expression is not an absolute right," he cautioned. "In every democratic society, it is subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of public safety, security as well as public health and morals. It is therefore important that we all work together to create a free and independent press as an indispensable pillar for our nascent democracy.”

Tambadou said that the press must continue to serve as a platform for the multiplicity of opinions, comments and voices of Gambians in accordance with national values.

“All existing laws seeking to restrain and inhibit the fundamental rights of the people to free expression shall be repealed and replaced with appropriate legislation that facilitates the right of expression in a democratic society.

"It is imperative that we conduct a thorough review and assessment of the existing laws and regulations to ensure compliance with modern and fair media laws in a democratic dispensation and international best practices," he said.

The minister commended the GPU for carrying out a comprehensive review of some aspects of media laws and regulations with a view to ensuring their compliance with democratic principles and international standards.

-0- PANA MSS/AR 3March2018

03 mars 2018 13:37:01

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