Gambia gained its independence from the United Kingdom on February 18, 1965. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa. Its capital town is Banjul and The Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom on February 18, 1965. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa. Its capital town is Banjul and English is the official language. The country’s economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism.
Overview of Media & FOE Environment
The Gambia is one of several African countries where media rights are suppressed by the government. Journalists, bloggers and other human rights defenders continue to suffer severe restrictions by the government. Critical journalism is least tolerated while rights violations remain rampant. The media in The Gambia has for past decade, suffered the highest number of arrests and imprisonment in West Africa.
Like any other country where freedom of expression is suppressed, the media in Gambia continues to experience major challenges such as weak financial capacity, low professional standards, and limited opportunities for media capacity building. The size of the economy and governmental attitude do not also support the viability of the media as business entities. Licensing fees are also high for newspapers and radio stations. The only nationwide media organisations, operated by the state broadcaster – the Gambian Radio and Television Service are tightly controlled by the government.
Legal Regulatory Framework for Media Operation
The main regulatory framework of the media is National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) law passed in 2004. Also still in force is a law passed in 2002, creating a commission with the power to issue licenses and sanction offending journalists. Libel remains a criminal offence. In 2004, legislation was passed allowing for the cancellation of all print and broadcasting licenses, forcing media groups to re-register at five times the original cost.
MFWA’s work in Gambia
The Gambia has been one of the countries that have received a lot of attention by the MFWA, due to its abysmal free expression standards. Over the past decade it has been the country with the highest number of rights violations recorded and reported by the MFWA.
The MFWA has litigated two separate cases on free expression rights violations against the government of The Gambia on behalf of two journalists of Gambian nationality. The two cases, which were litigated at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice with judgments delivered in 2008 and 2010, in favour of the victims. The victims were Chief Ebrima Manneh who remain disappeared since 2006 and Musa Saidykhan, who was tortured by Gambia security personnel and had to flee the country for his safety.
Despite the express orders of compensation contained in the judgments of the Court, the Gambian government has refused to comply with both judgments, entrenching the country’s notoriety for impunity. The MFWA will continue to pursue the enforcement of the Court’s ruling and compliance by the Gambian government.
The MFWA will also continue to monitor and report on all acts of free expression violations that continue to occur in the country.