Banjul, May 29: The Gambia Press Union welcomes and highly appreciates the payment of compensation to four journalists by the Government of The Gambia.
In a landmark ruling made in February 2018, the Ecowas Community Court of Justice based in Abuja, Nigeria, ordered the government to pay compensation of US$25, 000 to journalists Fatou Camara, Lamin Fatty, Alagie Jobe and Fatou Jaw Manneh for violation of their rights to press freedom.
The four journalists were variously charged and prosecuted under anti-free speech laws that the sub-regional court condemned as undemocratic, ruling that their enforcement constitutes a violation of freedom of press.
Fatou Camara, one of the journalists, said: “I am glad that The Gambia has endorsed the Ecowas Court judgment. I hope this serves as a lesson for governments to allow journalists do our work without harassment and intimidation. Our rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and freedom of movement should always be respected.”
The suit against the government was filed in 2015 by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), along with the then four exiled journalists. It came about following consultations between the Gambia Press Union and Media Legal Defence Initiative, who supported the GPU to launch a similar suit filed by the GPU here at the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
The GPU has confirmed that each of the four journalists on Tuesday May 28 received the Dalasi equivalent of US$25, 000 from the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou.
Sheriff Bojang Jr., the GPU president said: “The payment of the compensation to these four journalists is an important step towards addressing the crimes committed against journalists, who suffered enormously under the former government. This move by the government is highly appreciated and we encourage them to swiftly deal with other pending payments, including the one for Musa Saidykhan and the completion of payment for the family of Deyda Hydara.”
Mr. Bojang Jr. added: “On behalf of the good people of The Gambia, I wish to thank Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and our parent body, the Federation of African Journalists, for their support and cooperation during those very difficult times. The journalists also have to be commended for accepting to participate knowing the potential attendant dangers.”
Meanwhile, in the Ecowas ruling, The Gambia government was ordered to decriminalise anti press freedom laws, including sedition, defamation and false news. The Union therefore calls on the government to go beyond the payment of compensation and fully implement the decision of the Ecowas by repealing laws that undemocratically interfere with the right to freedom of expression.