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AFRICA: Countries in Focus

Update on The Gambia

2018 XpA Scores:
Freedom of Expression – 0.62 Civic Space – 0.62
Digital – 0.64 Media – 0.65
Protection – 0.71 Transparency – 0.55

 

Last year, the XpA reported on regime change in Gambia. Adama Barrow was inaugurated on 19 January 2017, after his surprise victory in a 2016 election in which he beat dictator Yahya Jammeh – who had held power for more than two decades.[1]

Having declined between 2008 and 2016, this change of regime saw Gambia leap 80 positions from the 4th to 2nd quartiles over the 2015 to 2018 time period. Gambia is an XpA Advancer over this three-year period, with its score increasing from 0.10 in 2015 to 0.62 in 2018.

The steady democratisation and progress of Barrow’s government continued; some gains were cemented in 2018, including the creation of new media outlets and the return of journalists from self-imposed exile. Local government elections were held in April and May without major incident.[2]

In October, the government established the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during the Jammeh era.[3]

The ECOWAS Court also ruled that the arrest and detention of four Gambian journalists amounted to violations of their rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and freedom of movement. The four journalists – Fatou Camara, Fataou Jaw Manneh, Alhagie Jobe, and Lamin Fatty – had been living in exile. As part of the case, the Court ruled that the Gambian criminal laws on libel, sedition and false news impacted negatively on media freedom, and should be repealed or amended.[4] The Gambia’s Supreme Court followed this ruling, repealing the law in May.

Some forms of repression are harder to reform. On 18 June, police shot and killed two people, and injured many others, in a crackdown on a demonstration by residents of the village of Faraba, who were protesting against destructive sand-winning activities on their land. Pa Modou Bojang, a journalist covering the protest, was assaulted and detained for around six hours, and his Dictaphone seized.[5]

 

 

[1] ARTICLE 19, XpA Report 17/18, 2 November 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/xpa-18/;

[2] Freedom House, ‘The Gambia’, Freedom in the World, 2019, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/gambia

[3] ARTICLE 19, The Gambia: Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission Marks a Milestone in the Country’s History, 15 October 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/resources/the-gambia-truth-reconciliation-and-reparation-commission-marks-a-milestone-in-the-countrys-history/

[4] IFEX, Roller Coaster Ride Around the Region: Releases, Abductions, Shutdowns and Awards in Sub-Saharan Africa, 7 March 2018, available at https://ifex.org/roller-coaster-ride-around-the-region-releases-abductions-shutdowns-and-awards-in-sub-saharan-africa/

[5] Media Foundation for West Africa, Police Kill Two Protesters, Brutalise Journalist, 20 June 2018, available at http://www.mfwa.org/country-highlights/police-kill-two-protesters-brutalise-journalist/