The Gambia Press Union (GPU) on Tuesday (Feb. 14) 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 consultations on the Bill.
The Committee is tasked with reviewing and making consultations on the Bill and would later report to the National Assembly plenary on its findings and recommendations.
The GPU’s submissions relate to provisions of the Bill that 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 judgement of the ECOWAS Court on Gambian media laws,” he said.
The GPU welcomes the drafting of a new Criminal Offences Bill which will go some way in addressing the media law reform agenda of members of the media fraternity in The Gambia.
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,” he said.
“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.”