CPJ urges Gambia to act on ECOWAS Court ruling

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has called on the Gambian government to act on a judgment passed by a sub-regional court and “immediately repeal its laws on criminal libel, sedition and false news”.

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sitting in Abuja, Nigeria, on Wednesday ruled against Gambia’s draconian media laws made by the former government of Yahya Jammeh.

"We are delighted with (Wednesday's) judgment and see it as helping to close the door on the harassment of the press under Gambia's then President Yahya Jammeh," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal in a statement on Wednesday.

"Gambia's government, under President Adama Barrow, must ensure there are no delays in acting on the ECOWAS judgment so that the media can operate freely without fear of reprisal."

Meanwhile, ECOWAS found that Gambia's laws criminalizing speech and its treatment of four journalists during their arrest violated their rights.

The journalists -- Fatou Camara, Fataou Jaw Manneh, Alhagie Jobe, and Lamin Fatty -- lived in exile for fear of further persecution, the statement said.

CPJ and partner organizations filed an "amici curiae" brief to ECOWAS as part of the case.

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) had filed the case in December 2015 along with the four Gambian journalists who lived in exile during the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh.

The journalists argued that their rights, including their rights to freedom of expression, had been violated by Gambia through the enforcement of laws criminalizing libel, sedition and false news in the country.  

Two of the journalists were also subject to torture whilst in the custody of the National Intelligence Agency following their arrests under these laws.

Arguments were heard on 11 October 2016 at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, Nigeria. The case was supported by the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI).

Although press freedom has dramatically improved under the new government of President Barrow, who was inaugurated in January 2017, these restrictive laws are still in place.
-0- PANA MLJ/MA 15Feb2018

15 Fevereiro 2018 14:46:33

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