23 April 2019

Gambia Makes Significant Progress in Press Freedom - RSF

The Gambia has registered a remarkable progress in press freedom, climbing up to 30 places from the previous year in the RSF Index World Ranking Regrouping, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In 2017, The Gambia was ranked 122nd in the world and 34th in Africa. And in the latest ranking, in 2018, The Gambia rose up from 122nd to 92nd in the world and from 34th to 9th in Africa.

The France-based RSF which promotes and defends press freedom attributes the jump to a change in government, under which the human rights climate in the country has greatly improved.

It says: "Gambia (92nd) has jumped 30 places, confirming the promising evolution seen after Dictator Yahya Jammeh's departure. New media outlets have been created, journalists have returned from self-imposed exile and the criminalization of defamation has been declared unconstitutional."

Arnaud Froger, director for Africa commended the Gambia government and Gambian journalists for the remarkable progress on press freedom in the country and wished the trend continues.

"We appeal to The Gambia government without any delay to abolish the draconian laws," he pleaded. The Africa director further stated that plans are in the pipeline for The Gambia to host the world press freedom ranking next year.

Pap Saine, the Co-publisher of The Point Newspaper was the guest of honour at RSF's Index report held for the first time in Africa in Dakar.

Mr. Saine, who has also been working with Reporters Without Borders for the past 15 years, expressed delight with the progress The Gambia has registered.

Mr. Saine informed the gathering that since President Barrow assumed office in 2017, the government has issued licenses to many private owned-radio and TV stations which are running their own news bulletins.

He told them that the Education levy that required media houses to pay D100.000 has been abolished effective this year.

"Most of the radio stations are doing press review including Radio Gambia, he said.

"Journalists of the private press are now going to State House for coverage. The press corps of the State House are sending press releases to all media houses quite different as before."

He went on to say that the state broadcaster, GRTS also now features the developments of the oppositions as well as invite them on shows.

Despite the gains made in press freedom, Mr. Saine is cognizant of the fact that the draconian laws still exist in the constitution and thus urged the government to act swiftly to ensure that all the draconian laws are abolished.

Although RSF recognises the significant progress the country has made, it says the country is not fully journalists free saying "nonetheless, the old habits from 22 years of terror and suppression of press freedom have not yet fully disappeared. Several journalists have been attacked by the police or by Jammeh supporters while out reporting."


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