See also:
» 22.09.2010 - ECOWAS torture case against The Gambia nears an end
» 08.07.2009 - CPJ calls on Gambia to end media hostilities
» 18.06.2009 - Opposition leader calls for the release of journos
» 02.06.2009 - US senators petition Gambia in missing journalist's case
» 24.04.2009 - ECOWAS asked to intervene on the missing journalist case
» 16.12.2008 - RSF criticises continuing impunity in Gambia
» 19.08.2008 - Gambian journalist found guilty of sedition
» 18.06.2008 - Gambia's ex-minister becomes media manager

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Protest against Gambian Media Commission

afrol News, 4 September - National and international media stakeholders are protesting the enforcement of an act that will establish a feared National Media Commission in The Gambia. The Commission will have unprecedented powers to impose sanctions, including shutting down news media.

In a joint protest, the Media Foundation for West Africa and the UK-based group Article 19 today reiterated their concerns over the Enforcement of the Act establishing the National Media Commission of The Gambia.

The letter calls on media and human rights organisations to support the Gambia Press Union in their boycott of the Media Commission until the present Act is repealed. "Radical revisions need to be made in order for the legislation to meet international press freedom standards and to ensure media freedom in The Gambia," the letter says.

In June this year, the government of President Yahya Jammeh went ahead to inaugurate the National Media Commission without representatives of the Gambia Press Union and the Gambia Bar Association.

Recently, the Secretary of the Media Commission, Basiru Jobe, has requested that journalists start registering in order to be able to carry out their profession. He also urged the independent media to register with the Commission.

The Gambia Press Union is currently challenging the constitutionality of the Act before the Supreme Court of The Gambia. The Union has been hoping to prevent or at least drag out the implementation of the law.

- The Act in its present form is incompatible with international standards, the two media watchdog groups say in their protest letter. "It is one the most draconian examples of media legislation on the Continent."

MFWA and Article 19 add that the Acts many problems "include the lack of independence of the Media Commission, the quasi-judicial powers conferred to it and the mandatory licensing conditions it imposes on individual journalists."

From the moment it was set up, the Media Commission was to have the authority to shut down news media or withdraw their licences and issue arrests warrants against journalists. No media would be able to operate without a licence issued yearly by the Commission.

The President of the Commission originally was to be named by President Jammeh himself and answer to him. An amendment to the law foresaw that it now should be the Supreme Court President who is to appoint the Commission's leader.

Gambian journalists on several occasions have taken to the streets to condemn this law. The Gambia Press Union says the law is designed to "gag the independent press" in the country. The Union further urges journalists and independent media not to register with the Commission as the case is still pending at the Supreme Court.

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