By Abdoulie John
One and a half years after the removal of ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh, Gambian journalists are enjoying a new democratic dispensation punctuated by more freedom and the dissipation of the ‘rule of fear’.
While the Barrow government is not making efforts to further tighten controls on press freedom, media practitioners continue to be cautious about some media laws still posing a real threat to their job.
“The colonial laws enacted with a view to stifling the press are still in place,” Gambia Press Union (GPU) President Emil Touray told this reporter in an exclusive interview.
Media practitioners were the leading targets of the Jammeh regime as they were subjected to continued clampdown on dissent. The hostile media environment that prevailed during the 22-year rule by ex-Gambian dictator prompted a good number of journalists to flee the country for fear of persecution.
GPU President said colonialists have used these laws to suppress the voices for independence.
“We would have expected the first gov’t that came to power to remove these laws. But that was not the case,” he said.
He further stated these were the same laws that were so wrongfully abused by the ex-longtime ruler to crackdown on the media and impose restrictions on journalists.
“The retention of these laws is a gross disregard to Gambia’s international obligations,” he added.
Gambia Press Union (GPU) filed a civil suit against Gambia Government over the unconstitutionality of false news and false publication in the country’s statute book at the Supreme Court.
Touray said the gov’t has expressed its intention to retain the law on false publication.
He said the Gambia Supreme Court is set to deliver judgement on the case, and hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday.
As the Gambia joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, Touray called on journalists to fulfil their duty to inform with responsibility, insisting on the pivotal role the media has to play in the country’s new democratic dispensation.