By Aisha Tamba
Fatou Jagne Senghore, human rights defender, and regional director of Article 19 West Africa, yesterday gave the truth commission her NGO’s perspectives on human rights violations that occurred during Jammeh’s regime.
Madam Jagne testified on the muzzling of the media by former president Jammeh as an effort to further entrench himself in power and to cement his dictatorship.
She said in 1999, the government introduced a draft to set up a media commission aimed at restricting the media from freedom of expression and to restrict the operations of journalists to ensure that they register to a body that is not independent.
She added that after working with GPU senior members, the matter was taken to court and the bill was redrawn as the government tried to implement new laws that restrict freedom of expression.
She said when Deyda Hydara was killed and the public was busy focusing on the killing, Jammeh’s government sneaked in some amendments including the amendment to criminal code, which widened the definition of libel, expanded the sanctions in case of libel and defamation and also introduced the amendment to the Newspaper Act. “They increased the bond to establish a newspaper and the sanction for defamation, among a lot of legislations passed to tighten the space and muzzle expression.”
She said the media has been one of the casualties of the oppressive regime. “So many journalists have been prosecuted but the provision that was mostly used was treason, sedition and also false publication.”
She confirmed that a lot of journalists were arrested at different stages. “For example, the aborted coup in 2006 they arrested journalists such as Madi Ceesay, Lamin Fatty and continued to frustrate them through court cases.” She confirmed that at the time of the oppressive system, the NIA was the institution that frustrated journalists.