Government partly accepts protection of Media and Freedom of Expression

The government of The Gambia partially agrees with the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission’s recommendation to reform the criminal code for the protection of media freedom and freedom of expression. The government believes that seditious laws are essential for national security but agrees to review and provide clearer definitions to avoid misuse. Former President Jammeh’s regime oppressed the media to maintain power. The proposed reform aims to prevent similar abuses, emphasizing civil litigation for reputation safeguarding in line with human rights standards.

 Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) recommendation has elicited mixed feelings and has not been fully accepted by the government of The Gambia.  To reform the criminal code to fully protect media freedom and freedom of expression, in particular decriminalizing sedition, The government believes seditious laws are part of national security. 

The TRRC report states that ‘In the 22-year-rule of former President Yahya Jammeh he sought to remain in power by any means possible and viewed the media as a great threat to his self-perpetuating objective. He knew that in the execution of their duties to provide information to the public, the media, which is pivotal for accountability and democracy, could greatly influence public opinion,’ it added.

Thus, in order to avoid the reoccurrence of media terrorization by the state and encroachment on the right of expression, TRRC recommended that the government ‘reform the Criminal Code to fully protect media freedom and freedom of expression, in particular by decriminalizing sedition and defamation, ensuring that individuals’ reputational interests can only be safeguarded through civil litigation in conformity with international human rights law.

In its justification, the government said, ‘Seditious laws are a necessary part of a nation’s security provided they are not misused or abused by governments to curtail media freedom or freedom of speech/expression. The government will take necessary steps to providing a clearer definition on what constitutes sedition/sedition intent’.