Gambia to revoke controversial media law

Gambia has decided to revoke a controversial 2002 media law requiring journalists and the privately owned press to register with a state-run commission, a local radio station reported on Wednesday.

The council of ministers decided to revoke the law—widely seen as a serious threat to press freedom—after a meeting in Banjul on Tuesday, a statement issued afterwards said, according to the radio report.

The government will introduce a motion to revoke the law at the next sitting of the National Assembly in November—about 18 months after the law was passed by an overwhelming majority in May 2002.

Local media and international organisations from the start condemned the media commission set up by the law, which had the powers of a court and whose chairperson was appointed by the head of state.

Journalists and privately owned media were required to register with the commission or face closure.

The commission would consider any complaints against journalists or media organisations and had the powers to suspend reporters or withdraw their licenses, impose fines and close down organisations.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed the law for “limiting free speech” while local journalists filed a Supreme Court suit against the commission, which they said was “anti-constitutional”. A verdict is expected in December at the latest.—Sapa-AFP

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