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Saturday, September 26, 2020

UDP pays Lasana Jobarteh’s court fine, says they will appeal

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Mr Jobarteh was accused of broadcasting without licence using Skype and after weeks of trial, Magistrate Isatou Janneh found him guilty and sentenced him to one year in jail or option of a D50, 000 fine.

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At the court yesterday, counsel for the accused who is also the UDP party leader, Ousainou Darboe, appeared at the court, accompanied by Kemeseng Jammeh, former UDP parliamentarian for Jarra Central walked into the clerk’s office, pulled out five D100 note packs and handed them to the clerk and was receipted. 

Speaking outside the court, Mr Darboe confirmed the UDP paid the D50,000 fine. “I want first and foremost to express my enormous and boundless gratitude to the UDP supporters in the diaspora and other Gambians who are supporting the case of democracy in The Gambia. They made it their responsibility to provide the funds for the payment of this fine. The UDP back home is eternally grateful to them. This action of theirs gives us the garland, the impetus, and the encouragement to push ahead in the pursuit of the goals that Gambians have asked us to achieve for them. I have absolutely no doubt that with their support, we will reach the post very soon.” 

Turning to the judgment, Mr Darboe, who said he was speaking to the press on the issue for the first time since the verdict was delivered on July 10, said: “I have never in my practice been so shocked and disappointed with a judgment as this one. I never had the slightest imagination or thinking that this case would end up in the conviction of Lasana Jobarteh. For me, it defies reason, it defies logic and it defies legal principles, how anyone can be charged and convicted of broadcasting when you do not operate any of the broadcasting medium – television or radio.”

Mr Darboe said the definition of broadcasting in the Information and Communication Act talks about the person who has the editorial responsibility for the contents of a programme that are aired on TV or radio. “What is even more compelling is that the legislation is supposed to regulate broadcasting in The Gambia, and not outside the Gambia. The Gambian parliament has no authority and power to legislate extra-territorially. Their legislation can only operate within The Gambia and not outside The Gambia.”

“I realised that the magistrate relied on the view that Mr Jobarteh conducted an interview with Freedom Radio Online and Kibaroo News Online. These are broadcasting institutions that are operating outside The Gambia… Is The Gambia the right authority to regulate these institutions? What is even more alarming and disturbing is that if I grant an interview to VOA, RFI or BBC, which I do often by means of my iPad, then I will be guilty of broadcasting, and that is opening up greater avenues for the suppression of dissemination of other views that are contrary to the APRC.

“It is the most ill-considered judgment: it defies reason, it defies logic and defies all legal principles. However, it is the beauty of the legal system that we inherited from the colonialists – that if you are not satisfied with a judgment of a court, you have avenues to appeal against it. We will file an appeal [against the judgment] in the next two days,” he said.

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