The numerous laws in The Gambia that restrict the work of the media and journalists by criminalizing speech and dissent will be repealed in December 2018 if the words of the information minister is anything to go by.
The bill was originally planned to be tabled during this September session of the parliament but Ebrima Sillah said due to delay in drafting the document, the tabling will now be done in December.
Gambia, emerging from two-decade tyranny, has several bad laws in its statute books that makes the work of journalists very difficult.
Since the firing of Yahya Jamme by the electorates, the communications ministry under Adama Barrow’s administration has established a committee to review the media laws and recommend to the ministry a reform agenda.
Ebrima Sillah said his ministry has already drafted a cabinet paper on the recommendation of the Committee which is to be tabled at the next cabinet sitting.
“The media reform committee established by the Gambia government has submitted its final report to the communication ministry. The paper has been reviewed and accepted. We have already prepared a cabinet paper to be tabled in the next cabinet meeting,” Sillah said.
“It will most likely be before the National Assembly by December… These bad media laws cannot wait for the constitutional review.”
Sillah, who also revealed that his ministry is working of Freedom of Information Law, said ‘professional journalism’ is a major catalyst for social change and economic development.
Sillah made these statements at the country’s first Editors Forum at the Ocean Bay Hotel, Bakau.
The Forum, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme, was organized by the West African Network for Peace Building and the Gambia Press Union, to bring editors under one roof to discuss means to ensure more productive and professional media output.
“It is important that editors are trained to ensure higher standards of journalism,” said Anna Jones, the national coordinator of WANEP.
The outgoing UN resident coordinator, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, urged editors to ensure that their media content engender trust and reconciliation in a society that endured tyranny for over two decades.
Meanwhile, the GPU brought in a Ghanaian expert George Sarpong who shared with the editors what templates they could follow to form a forum of that nature.
There has never been a editors forum in Gambia though there were attempts to create one, said a veteran journalist and editor in chief of the Foroyaa newspaper, Samuel Sarr.
The editors who will meet again on September 15 will rely on the template and constitution created by Sarr and his colleague some years ago.
Editors Forum is a platform that gives country gatekeepers an opportunity to assess themselves in terms of quality delivery of news content to their audiences.
The secretary general of the GPU, Saikou Jammeh, said the establishment of the Forum is an important initiative towards ensuring quality content on Gambian media.