By: Aja Musu Bah
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) on Tuesday February 14th 2023, presented a position paper on the Criminal Offences Bill 2022, to the National Assembly Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters, as part of the Committee’s public consultation on the Bill.
The Committee which is tasked to review and make consultation on the Bill, should report back to the National Assembly plenary on its findings and recommendations.
The GPU welcomes the drafting of a new Criminal Offences Bill which will go some way to address the media law reform agenda of members of the media fraternity in The Gambia. The GPU’s submissions relate to provisions of the Bill that are seen to restrict press freedom and freedom of expression.
GPU President Muhammed S. Bah, said while some media laws found in the Criminal Code have not been replicated in the Criminal Offences Bill, 2022 which seeks to repeal the former, the GPU made some recommendations for sections dealing with incitement to sedition and false publication to be removed.
“It has always been the position of the GPU in pursuit of a media law reform agenda that we bring our laws regulating the media in line with the constitution, international treaties and conventions that the Gambia has ratified, as well as the judgment of the ECOWAS Court on Gambian media laws,” he said.
The GPU Secretary General Modou S. Joof, said it was important for the Committee to consider its position on some of the provisions of the Bill that deal with sedition and false publication and broadcasting.
“These provisions have a chilling effect on journalism practice leading to self-censorship on the part of journalists to avoid being arrested, detained or prosecuted and convicted. These provisions also restrict the public and journalists from seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas which are rights provided for under international human rights laws, and as well, affect constitutional guarantees of press freedom, freedom of expression and the media’s mandate of holding the government to account,” he asserted.