Freedom of the Press 2009 - Gambia, The
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Gambia, The, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b274215c.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 25 (of 30)
Political Environment: 34 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 20 (of 30)
Total Score: 79 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
The Gambia's poor record on press freedom remained unchanged in 2008. The press continued to operate under enormous strains due to legal and extralegal intimidation of journalists and media outlets, as well as complete impunity for past abuses.
The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but the government does not respect it in practice. The constitutional protections are undermined by other legislation, primarily the Newspaper Amendment Act and a criminal code amendment, both passed in 2004. The latter established the publication of false information as an offense carrying stiff penalties, and mandated harsh punishments for sedition and libel.
The 2004 murder of journalist Deyda Hydara remained unsolved in 2008. Hydara was managing editor and cofounder of the Point, a privately owned weekly, and a correspondent for both Reporters Sans Frontieres and Agence France-Presse.
In June, the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria ordered the Gambian government to release "Chief" Ebrima Manneh, a journalist for the Daily Observer newspaper who had been arrested in 2006 and held incommunicado ever since. The government denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.
In July, the editor of Today newspaper, Abdul Hamid Adiamoh, was arrested on charges of publishing with seditious intent for a report on children who skipped school in order to sell salvaged scrap metal. His case was still open at the end of the year.
In December, a British missionary couple received a one-year prison sentence for "seditious" e-mails sent to the United States and Britain.
The U.S. State Department reported that several journalists were in hiding during the year out of fear of government retaliation. A number of others remained in exile.
The government owns a daily newspaper, a national radio station, and the only national television station. Political news coverage at these outlets generally toes the official line. The Gambia has seven private newspapers and nine private radio stations. Many of these outlets are subject to official pressure for publishing criticism of the government and public officials, while most businesses avoid advertising with them for fear of government reprisals. A premium television network operates as a satellite station.
About 5.8 percent of the population was able to access the internet in 2008. Since its launch in 2006, Freedom Newspaper, an online news site that is often critical of the government, has periodically been blocked by the authorities. Users reported that they were unable to access the site for a short period in March.