The Gambia Government has conceded that the country’s internet law which prescribes a 15-year prison term and a fine of 3 million dalasis for anyone convicted of using the internet to spread false news, make derogatory statements, incite dissatisfaction, or instigate violence against the government or public officials, is unconstitutional.
The Government made the concession yesterday at the Supreme Court in a lawsuit against them filed by the Gambia Press Union, which started in 2015.
The concession was just on criminal defamation and false publication on the internet but the Justice Minister said they are contesting false publication and broadcasting.
“The move by the Attorney General is laudable and positive. Gambians are the winners in this case since this move will pave way for citizens of this country to participate in constructive debates that will enlarge our democratic space,” Emil Touray, president of Gambia Press Union told The Standard.
The internet law which was passed by former President Yahya Jammeh’s government in 2013 was widely criticized by rights groups who said it has effectively banned officials from taking to the media as well as scared people from expressing themselves on issues online.
Journalists such as Terenga FM’s Alhagie Ceesay and Alhagie Jobe were targeted under these laws – reportedly tortured and prosecuted.
In 2013, the Information Minister Nana Grey-Johnson led efforts to amend the Information and Communications Act to introduce a 15-year prison term and a fine of 3 million dalasi ($70,000) for anyone convicted of using the internet to spread false news, make derogatory statements, incite dissatisfaction, or instigate violence against the government or public officials.