Friday, September 17, 2021

Supreme Court to Hear Freedom Of Expression Case Today

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By Yankuba Jallow

The Supreme Court will on Wednesday, 28th July 2021 hear a freedom of information case brought by former GPU President Bai Emil Touray seeking declaration that section 60 of the Criminal Code which criminalizes free speech, is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

Bai Emil Touray is the 1st Plaintiff, Open Media Centre is the 2nd Plaintiff whereas the Attorney General is the sole defendant in the case.

Section 60 of the Criminal Code (Defamation of Foreign Prince)  provides “Any person who, without such justification or excuse as would be sufficient in the case of the defamation of a private person, publishes anything intended to be read, or any sign or visible representation, tending to degrade, revile or expose to hatred or contempt any foreign prince, potentate, ambassador, or other foreign dignitary with intent to disturb peace and friendship between the United Kingdom or The Gambia and the country to which such prince, potentate, ambassador or dignitary belongs, is guilty of a misdemeanour.”

The Plaintiffs want the apex court to make a declaration that section 60 of the Criminal Code which criminalises free speech as it regards any foreign prince, potentate, ambassador, other foreign dignitaries is unconstitutional. It is the position of the Plaintiffs that this provision of the Criminal Code was made in excess of legislative powers.

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The Plaintiffs are contending that section 60 of the Criminal Code does not fall within the reasonable restrictions provided under section 25 subsection 4 of the Constitution.

The freedom of information advocates in their writ of summons argued that this provision of the penal code is not in line with reasonable restrictions envisaged in the Constitution necessary in a democratic society.

The activists are arguing that its maintenance in the laws gives the State excessive powers.

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