The West African regional court has ruled on Wednesday that the Gambia should decriminalize its media laws against libel, sedition and false news which violates the rights to freedom of expression.
The ECOWAS Regional Court of Justice based in Abuja, Nigeria gave the ruling which will force the Adama Barrow government to repeal the laws and uphold media freedom.
The case was filed by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and some exiled Gambian journalists in 2015 and was heard in 2016 with support from the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and Amnesty International.
Despite the change in government, the laws which were put in place under the regime of ousted leader Yahya Jammeh, are still active. Many journalists have suffered torture and death under the laws while in the custody of the disbanded National Intelligence Agency.
“These laws have done nothing but created a pervasive culture of persecution, violence, and injustice against those working in the media in Gambia under the regime of former President Jammeh.
“Today’s ruling should spur the new government to waste no time in repealing these laws, to ensure it meets its responsibilities under international and regional law, and to lay a foundation for a strong human rights culture,” says Sabrina Mahtani, who is the Amnesty International West Africa researcher.
“Our hope is that this ruling will also have a positive impact on other countries in West Africa where similarly restrictive laws are being used to prosecute journalists,” she added.
Yahya Jammeh, former president of The Gambia stifled dissent through these laws which he enforced with iron hands.