Thursday, July 25, 2013
Ending 19 years of repression and impunity in The Gambia
July 22, 2013, marks 19 years of President Yahya Jammeh's rule of West Africa’s smallest country, The Gambia, after the 48-year old leader ceased power in 1994 through a military coup.
The 19-year rule of President Jammeh has been characterised by brutal repression of citizens’ rights to free expression. Freedom of speech and media rights have remained stifled mainly through the application of inimical laws and the meting out of stiffer punishments after politically motivated trials.
During the period, dozens of human rights advocates and journalists have been exiled, others have been killed and several others have disappeared. In The Gambia today, critical media reportage is literally outlawed, while other rights violations continue to be perpetrated by the government with gross impunity. For example, The Jammeh regime has refused to comply with two human rights judgements delivered against it by the regional community Court of Justice (the ECOWAS Court) since 2010.
While traditional media remained repressed, Gambian citizens have over the years relied on the internet as an alternative channel for expressing themselves. Gambians based home and abroad have, over the years, used the internet to advocate for the respect and protection of human rights (especially freedom of expression) in the country. Online freedom too has now been severely restricted through a new draconian internet law passed on July 3, 2013.
The new internet law known as (Information and Communication Act 2013) allows for a 15 year jail term and/or a US$90,000 fine for the offence of “publication of false news” about the government on the internet. Many have expressed concern about the obvious dire implications of the law on online freedom and freedom of expression in The Gambia.
On this day, July 22, marked by human rights organisations and civil society groups globally as "Gambia Day of Action," the MFWA entreats all internet-users across the world to join the campaign to protest against the new Internet law and the worsening conditions of freedom of expression in The Gambia.