New York, October 20, 2004—Yesterday, the Gambia’s Council of Ministers decided to revoke the controversial National Media Commission Act, according to a statement broadcast on state radio. The National Assembly must now approve the measure, though it is unclear when that vote will occur.
The legislation, enacted in 2002, created a media regulatory body with jurisdiction over complaints against journalists. The act also required journalists and media organizations to register with the commission for one-year renewable licenses.
While government amendments at the end of 2003 removed some of the commission’s far-reaching judicial powers and turned them over to the courts, local journalists continued to dispute several articles of the legislation, as well as the commission’s composition, which did not include a single member of the private press.
Many independent journalists, including members of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), refused to register with the commission, and in 2003 the GPU and several local private publications filed a suit with the Supreme Court challenging the commission’s constitutionality. The court has not yet reached a verdict.
“CPJ welcomes the Council of Ministers’ initiative to repeal the repressive National Media Commission Act,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge Gambian legislators to approve this measure as quickly as possible.”
For more information, see CPJ reports on the Gambia from 2002 and 2003: http://www.cpj.org/attacks02/africa02/gambia.html; http://www.cpj.org/attacks03/africa03/gambia.html.