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Gambia Media Landscape Still Problematic – local union decries

The Gambia Press Union, in marking the World Press Freedom Day this year, described media landscape in the country as one that is still a ‘problematic situation’.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day commemoration coincided with the release of the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders.
“The Gambia is ranked 85th out of 180 countries, indicating a modest progress of 2 points, from the 87th position last year,” said the union.
However, GPU said beneath the ranking lies facts that reveal that the media situation in the country is only better than the dark days of the dictatorship.
“With a score of 30.76 points in the RSF measurement, the media landscape in this country is still a ‘problematic situation’. So our improvement in ranking does not necessarily mean the media environment in the country is ideal,” it argued.
One of the reasons the country is still stuck in this situation is because of “the unfriendly environment and legislations” that still existed against the media, despite defeat of dictatorship.
“Indeed, the space for media freedoms and freedom of expression has expanded since the downfall of dictatorship,” the GPU observed.
Today, there are more media houses in the country. This means more people have access to the media to express their opinions.
“This diversity and plurality of opinions in the media counts in favour of the country,” said the union.
And for the first time since the country’s independence in 1965, the government granted a subsidy to the media to help them through a financial and operational difficulties resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The long-awaiting major reforms of the repressive media laws in The Gambia continues to drag, four years on. The Media Law Review Committee’s final report submitted to the Ministry of Information and Communications in May 2018 recommended for the review and amendment of the following legislations:
1. Information and Communications Act of 2009
2. Criminal Code of 1933
3. Indemnity Act of 2001
4. GRTS Act of 2004
5. Telegraph Stations Act of 1990
6. Officials Secrets Act of 1922
7. Newspaper and Broadcasting Stations Act of 1944
“All these laws are recommended for review because they have problematic and disturbing provisions that are not in line with international norms, standards and democracy..
“Four years on, none of these laws have been successfully amended. A number of Bills seeking to repeal of the laws have been in parliament, gathering dust while no concrete steps have been taken by the government towards repealing or amending the rest of the anti-free press laws..
“The bill on Access to Information is still at the National Assembly, one year on. But the problematic media situation pointed at in the RSF Index is not just about the laws, but also the practices.
“Lest we forget, just last year, the government arbitrarily and illegally closed down two radio stations, King FM and Home Digital FM, for a whole month. As if the closure was not bad enough, the managers – and two reporters – of these stations were also arrested and detained for no legally justified reason,” it added.

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