20 February 2018

West Africa: ECOWAS Judgment - A Victory for Free Media

The landmark decision of the Ecowas Community Court of Justice in Abuja is quite significant. The Court has ordered the government of The Gambia to pay six million Dalasis in compensation to four Gambian journalists for the violation of their human rights and subjecting them to degrading treatment. The court also held that the criminal laws on libel, sedition and false news disproportionately interfere with the rights of Gambian journalists and directed that The Gambia immediately repeals or amends these laws in line with its obligation under international law.

This sends a message that violation of media freedom is intolerable not only in The Gambia but in the whole of West Africa. It gives media practitioners a moral boost in their defence of media freedom.

Needless to say, even though the former government was responsible for the violation, it is the current government that has to face the decision of the court.

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