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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Government urged to reform laws restricting freedom of expression and online privacy

By Isatou Jaiteh

Freedom of expression and digital rights stakeholders have called on the government to reform legislations relating to anti cyber crimes and freedom of expression.

A consortium of stakeholders took part in the universal periodic review on digital rights hosted by the Give 1 Project in partnership with the Gambia Cyber Security Alliance, Gambia Press Union, Media Academy for Journalism and Communication, Gambia community library and the YMCA with support from the British High Commission in Banjul.
The event was held at the Ocean Bay hotel in Bakau.

Freedom of expression has long worsened under the former regime with several legislations enacted to restrict free speech and internet access.

Alieu Sowe, the country coordinator for the Give 1 project, said despite promises by the Barrow government to improve legal hindrances suppressing freedom of expression and digital rights, “these laws are still in existence.”

He said there were many laws orchestrated by the Jammeh government that affected the country and its image, which is why their project conducted a research in partnership with other stakeholders through compiling a factsheet of recommendations submitted to the CRC for the new constitution.

A senior lecturer from the UTG School of Journalism and Digital Media, Demba Kandeh said aside from the Supreme Court ruling on sedition and criminal defamation 2017, there has not been any significant legal change in terms of the framework for internet freedom.

Kandeh emphasised the need for Gambians to move on while expressing optimism that the ongoing constitutional review commission would address the legal hindrances ranging from the reform on data legislation protection and the official secrecy act among others in the new constitution.

Jainaba Faye, a representative from the British High Commission in Banjul, explained that the universal periodic review on digital rights is a unique process which involves the review of the human rights record of all UN member states.

She added that; the UPR is a state driven process under the auspices of human rights council which provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their country and to fulfill human rights obligations”
She said the British High Commission hopes that the Gambia government will act on recommendations from all state parties in November.

Other participants at the event also highlighted the importance of access to information and freedom of expression in democracy, and equally called on the government to address them.

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