Gambia still needs to address challenges to press freedom
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the Gambian government’s decision to grant a subsidy to media outlets that have been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. But many challenges need to be addressed to improve press freedom in Gambia.
On 17 July, the Gambian parliament approved a bill granting a subsidy of 15 million dalasi (about 300,000 US dollars) to the county’s print media and radio stations. A separate subsidy is planned for TV channels. This is the first time since 1965 that the media have been given assistance of this kind.
“This historic decision is all the more important for coming at a time when the media are facing an unprecedented financial crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa office. “However, this measure must not divert attention from the other challenges that still need to be addressed in order to create a more favourable environment for journalistic freedom in a country marked by a 20-year dictatorship.”
These challenges include repeal of draconian laws introduced under former dictator Yahya Jammeh that are still in effect. Despite the good intentions proclaimed by Adama Barrow when he became president in 2017, the repressive media laws have yet to be the subject of long-awaiting major reforms.
They include laws on fake news, defamation and criminal defamation. The often violent behaviour of the security forces in their relations with journalists is another issue that needs to be resolved, as is the issue of Jammeh’s extradition. Regarded as the mastermind of the journalist Deyda Hydara’s murder, the former dictator is still benefitting from the refuge he was given in Equatorial Guinea.
Gambia’s media landscape has diversified since Jammeh’s departure. The country now has four dailies, a tri-weekly, 33 radio stations, six TV channels and many news websites. It is ranked 87th out of 180 countries and regions in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.