Panafrican News Agency

'Gambian journalists still operate under threat of digital surveillance, digital intrusion'

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - The Gambia Press Union (GPU) says journalists still operate under the threat of digital surveillance and digital intrusion.

This is due to the existence of an authoritarian legal and technological framework put in place by the former administration of Yahya Jammeh, which still allows unchecked government surveillance of Information Communication Technologies.

The GPU said this in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday under the theme, “Journalism under digital siege.”

The GUP noted that Article 138 of the Information Communications Act (ICA) gives sweeping powers to national security agencies and investigative authorities to monitor, intercept and store communications in unspecified circumstances while also giving the national utilities regulator, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the authority to “intrude on  communication for surveillance purposes”, all without judicial oversight.

The statement said the scope of the government’s current technical surveillance capabilities remains unknown, but it still remains that the government can, when it deems necessary, arbitrarily exercise its surveillance powers to stifle freedom of expression and press freedom.

The statement pointed out that it is thus incumbent that proposed amendments to the ICA, especially provisions that deal with judicial oversight for the exercise of surveillance powers, be reintroduced to the newly elected parliament, for deliberations on their necessity and importance to hopefully facilitate its amendment.

It said that Gambia does not currently have data protection legislation, despite being a signatory to the 2010 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Supplementary Act on Personal Data Protection within ECOWAS, a vital legislation especially with regard to the protection of reporters and whistleblowers.

-0- PANA MSS/MA 4May2022