Gambia, The | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Gambia, The

Gambia, The

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

72

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

31

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

Press freedom declined further in The Gambia in 2004 owing to increased legal restrictions and state repression. The administration of President Yahya Jammeh has generally conducted state policies regarding media freedom without respect for the 1997 constitution that, in theory, guarantees freedom of expression. In December, the parliament passed two bills that sought to impose harsh penalties on the media. An amendment to the Newspapers Act requires all print and broadcast media to reregister with authorities and increased the bond required of all media owners to approximately US$16,000. In addition, amendments to the criminal code imposed mandatory prison sentences of at least six months for media owners or journalists convicted of publishing defamatory or seditious material or publishing or broadcasting "false news." The legislation also allows the state to confiscate without judicial oversight any publication deemed "seditious."

 Officials regularly detain, threaten, or otherwise harass journalists who write articles considered to be sensitive or overly critical. In February, Alagi Yorro Jallow, managing editor of The Independent, was detained and questioned by police about a story the paper had recently published. During the year, Gambian journalists and media organizations were also subjected to threats and violent attacks at the hands of unidentified assailants and a pro-government gang called the Green Boys. In April, arsonists set fire to The Independent's new printing press, while in August, the home of BBC correspondent Ebrima Sillah was set ablaze. As the year ended, two days after the parliament passed the contentious laws that he and other local journalists had strongly opposed, Deyda Hydara, a leading journalist who was managing editor of the private weekly The Point and the former president of the Gambia Press Union, was murdered. The killing prompted widespread condemnation from regional and international groups and protests from the local press corps.

The government owns a daily newspaper, a national radio station, and the only national television station, and political or news coverage at these outlets favors the official line. A number of privately owned newspapers and radio stations provide independent or opposition views, and access to foreign publications and broadcasts is not restricted. However, an increasing number of journalists are practicing some degree of self-censorship.