Gambia’s new justice minister vows to reform draconian media laws

aboubacarr-baa-tambadouGambia’s new Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubacarr  Tambedou, has vowed to reverse former president Yahya Jammeh’s anti-media policies which has made the small West African nation one of the toughest places for journalists in the region.

Gambian media has suffered a huge restriction from one of Africa’s worst strongmen Jammeh and the country scored 145 out of 180 ranks on the 2016 world press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders.

“The third area of priority will be law reform particularly in the criminal justice sector and media law reform. It is obvious that you cannot have democracy without the right to freedom of expression being exercised fully and without reservation,” Tambedou told journalists after he was sworn-in as minister on Tuesday afternoon.

Known for walking around with his trademark prayer beads and a sword, Jammeh was one of the world’s most eccentric and ruthless leaders.

Gambia is the only Anglophone country in the sub-region without access to information law and Jammeh often make public statements denouncing journalists as agents of foreign powers.

The new administration that toppled him in the country’s recent December 1 election campaigned on the promises of democracy and greater freedom.

“All laws from the land derive their authority from the constitution and so do all organs of the state, so the constitution is naturally the starting point… We will be starting a constitutional review process with a view to ensuring that the constitution is relevant and serves the purpose for which Gambians have adopted it in the first place,” he added.

“Then again constitutional provisions alone do not guarantee any meaningful change. So that (constitutional reform) will be complemented with institutional reform. We will ensure that we build robust independent institutions that will prevent the creation of permissive environment that will condone violations of human rights and disregard for rule of law…”

Tambedou who now joins 10 other ministers earlier sworn-in in the new cabinet of Barrow is a seasoned Gambian lawyer who worked at the Office of the UN Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia from 2003-2012 and became Assistant to the Office of the Prosecutor from 2012-2016.

President Adama Barrow commended the newly appointed minister for accepting the new challenge and for the help he has rendered to them during the transition period and standing by the Coalition team.

“A justice system is very important in any society and if you have someone who is willing to work with the Gambian people and who is also good at it, therefore, the Gambia will surely have the best judicial system” he said.

Ousainou Darboe, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Aboard welcomed new Minister Tambedou to the new Cabinet.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan Genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda, or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states, between 1 January and 31 December 1994.

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