The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has said it is “deeply concerned” by what it described as the “continuing restrictions” and “violations with impunity the right to freedom of expression, especially press freedom in The Gambia”.
This statement was made by the Secretary General of the Gambia Press Union, Saikou Jammeh, at the ongoing Africa Human Rights Commission session taking place at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
“While previous cases of heinous atrocities on media…remain unresolved, media practitioners continue to face abduction, arbitrary arrests and detention, undue prosecution, harassment and thereby loss of businesses,” Jammeh said.
Mr Jammeh also made reference to the court case involving Abdoulie Ceesay, a radio manager, whose radio station “had been arbitrarily shut down three times in under four years”.
He informed the session that Ceesay is currently undergoing trial on charges of sedition and false news.
“Prior to the charges, he (Abdoulie Ceesay) was taken away by plain clothes state security agents and detained incommunicado for 29 days, between July 2 and August 4, during which he was allegedly tortured,” he said.
However, the GPU said it is “concerns” about the way state security handled the matter and the slow pace of the trial.
The Secretary General also called “on the Commission to urge for his release” though Ceesay’s case resumed in court yesterday, November 11 following which it was adjourned until November 18.
Mr Jammeh further said the “unfavourabe legal, political and economic conditions” under which media practitioners operate do not allow journalists to “effectively contribute” to public debate or hold leaders to account.
He called on the African Commission to “engage the government with a view to conducting a comprehensive media reforms”, arguing that the government “had made a pledge several times that they’re open to media reforms”.
The GPU further called on the ACHPR to urge the Gambian Government to “enact freedom of information law, repeal and decriminalise defamation, insult laws; repeal False News and amend the Sedition laws in line with the ACHPR standards, review the tax regime applicable to printing materials as these have a stifling effect on the operations of media houses, Lift the ban on media houses that have been shut down unduly, Create safer environment for journalists, free from physical abuse, put an end to impunity by investigating previous cases of media rights violations, especially cases of murder, disappearance, arson attacks, and torture, allow the ACHPR to conduct a fact finding mission and submit its overdue reports”.
The two weeks forum of the 57th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which opened at the Commission’s headquarters in Banjul on November 4, has brought together state parties representatives, NGOs and civil society organizations to discuss the human rights situation in Africa.