Gambia, The | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Gambia, The

Gambia, The

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

63

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

25

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

18

Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression, the government continues to restrict this right through a combination of harassment and harsh legal strictures. Several decrees require all private media to pay exorbitant licensing fees in order to operate. During 2003, provisions of the National Media Commission Bill of 2002 came into effect. The bill authorized the creation of a commission with the power to decide who is and is not a journalist, to formulate a journalistic code of ethics, and to deny the right to confidentiality of sources. In addition, the commission can issue arrest warrants for journalists and can jail journalists for up to six months on widely framed charges of contempt. The act is currently being challenged in court by the Gambia Press Union. Despite some self-censorship and a lack of access to official information, the independent print media continue to criticize government policies as well as the ruling party. However, the state-run broadcast media present tightly controlled news and give limited coverage to opposition viewpoints. Citizen FM radio, which was an important source of independent news information, was shut down by authorities in 2001 and remained closed during 2003. Journalists continue to experience harassment and attacks at the hands of police and security forces. Staff from the private, biweekly Independent were targeted in particular; a reporter was assaulted by police in August, and editor-in-chief Abdoulie Sey was detained incommunicado at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency for three days in September. Unidentified men set the newspaper's office on fire in October, but the case has thus far not been adequately investigated.