EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: Gambia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Justice and Article 19, Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding –MOU- to support the reform of laws and policies that will advance the freedom of expression, access to information, citizen participation and accountability in the country.
The severe infringement on the right of freedom of expression in the past 22 years in The Gambia had resulted to journalists, human rights defenders and political opposition parties enduring repression and violence that hindered their fundamental civil liberties.
Legislation, such as the Criminal Code Amendment Act No. 18 of 2004 -that 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 -that 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 Gambia enter 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.