L’associazione inglese per la difesa delle liberta’ di stampa ARTICLE 19 e la Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) protestano fortemente, a sostegno della Gambia Press Union (GPU), contro la nuova legge sull’informazione, una delle piu’ draconiane sull’intero continente africano.
A cura di red Enacted in August 2002, the National Media Commission Act creates a national regulatory agency to handle public complaints about the media and to oversee the mandatory registration of journalists and media outlets.
Under the legislation, the National Media Commission is given powers to create a code of conduct to which the media must adhere, ARTICLE 19 says. The Commission can summon witnesses, demand that journalists reveal their sources and impose fines of at least 5,000 dalasis (US$550) if a journalist is “blameworthy,” warns ARTICLE 19.
The act also requires all journalists and media outlets to register at the Commission, a requirement that contravenes international legal standards on free expression. ARTICLE 19 has expressed concern that the Commission lacks independence, pointing out that the chair of the Commission is appointed by the President.
ARTICLE 19 and MFWA have written a joint letter calling on media and human rights organisations to support the GPU in its boycott of the Commission. The groups say radical revisions need to be made before the legislation meets international press-freedom standards. The GPU has mounted a court case challenging the constitutionality of the Act before the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
In its review of press freedom in The Gambia in 2002, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) notes that President Jammeh referred to the country’s media in January as a “dead and rotten horse” and said the press was “trying to please the international community by criticizing the government and spreading lies about him.”
Local journalists blame the government for routinely refusing interviews, which leads to opposition party members receiving more coverage. At the same time, they admit that lack of professional training has hampered reporting, CPJ says. The GPU has been working to establish mechanisms for media self-regulation, including a code of conduct it drafted in 2002.