Gambian court trashes criminal defamation

By Staff reporter

The Supreme Court in Gambia has declared criminal defamation and false publication offences unconstitutional.

In a landmark ruling on Wednesday, the court, however upheld the offence of sedition.

This conflicts with the ruling made by the regional court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in February this year.

The Regional Court ruled that Gambia’s draconian media laws on sedition; false news and criminal defamation violated the right to freedom of expression.

But for the press union, the battle against what they have considered bad media laws is not over yet.

President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Emile Touray, said the Union might consider ‘filling an application for the court to review its decision’.

“We are elated that the Supreme Court has declared criminal defamation and false publication unconstitutional. We are, however, sad that sedition and false publication and broadcasting are retained in the criminal code,” Touray told Kerr Fatou after the verdict.

The GPU started the litigation in 2015 but it could not proceed because there were no judges at the Supreme Court.

However, despite the Supreme Court judgment, the Barrow administration said they have conceded on the unconstitutionality of libel, criminal defamation and sedition but maintained that false news placed ‘reasonable restriction necessary in a democracy’.

So even whereas the country’s top court had agreed that sedition was constitutional, the government promised not to apply the law.

The Gambian government has established a committee to reform media laws and GPU is represented at the table.