Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Gambia

Adoption of restrictive legislation on freedom of the press56

On 28 December 2004, Mr. Yahya Jammeh, President of the Republic, had secretly signed the Newspaper Amendment Act and the 2004 Criminal Code Amendment Bill. The first enactment invalidates registration of all media in the country and obliges them to re-register with the Registrar General's office, which is under the authority of the Ministry of Information, within two weeks after the Act takes effect. This law also imposes a fivefold increase in the sum that newspaper owners have to pay for their licence, with their homes being taken as collateral in case of non-payment. The second law does away with fines and stipulates that all press offences (libel, whose definition has been expanded, sedition, dissemination of false news and improper remarks) will be punishable by prison terms of six months to three years. The authorities can also confiscate any publication deemed "seditious" without legal authorisation.

The promulgation of these two laws was made public on 22 February 2005.

Furthermore, on 23 June 2005, the National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Criminal Code to increase the minimum prison sentence from six months to one year for the aforementioned offences and to re-establish the "option of a fine" as an alternative for prison terms in cases of "defamation" and "sedition". The fines are very steep, from 50,000 dalasis (1,460 euros) to 250,000 dalasis (7,300 euros). By the end of 2005, the new law had not yet taken effect.

Lack of results in the investigation into the assassination of Mr. Deida Hydara57

Mr. Deida Hydara, a journalist, the Gambia correspondent for Agence France Presse (AFP) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières – RSF), and co-owner of the newspaper The Point, was assassinated during the night of 16-17 December 2004 while driving two of his colleagues home. Mr. Hydara was killed by three shots in the head, fired point-blank by unidentified individuals. Mr. Hydara was especially well-known for his commitment to freedom of the press and human rights, and had published two articles in his newspaper, just a few days before his death, criticising the adoption of the two aforementioned laws.

The investigation was originally to be carried out by Mr. Landing Badjie, the chief police inspector, who noted that Mr. Hydara had received threats before the killing and said that he was to be following definite leads in the case. Mr. Badjie was accused of corruption and imprisoned in February 2005.

The investigation was then turned over to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which published a report on 3 June 2005 supporting the theory that Mr. Hydara's murder was a "settling of personal scores" by a jealous husband or else was connected to "embezzlement of funds" by his associate, who was also a childhood friend. The report also mentioned the possibility that the assassination had been committed by someone who disapproved of Mr. Hydara's articles, but did not pursue this theory. However, it did stress strictly personal aspects of Mr. Hydara's life and the quality of his work, especially mentioning that he "strayed from the rules of ethics governing his profession".

By the end of 2005, the perpetrators of this crime had still not been identified.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

56. Idem.

57. Idem.


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