Friday, November 12, 2010

MFWA frowns at ‘Gambia Government non-compliance’

Missing Gambian Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh

The media foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has called the Gambian government’s refusal to comply with the recommendations of Resolution 134 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights made at its 44th Ordinary session in November 2008, ‘a major concern.’
The resolution urged the Gambian government to provide access to all prisoners and bring an immediate end to harassment and intimidation of independent media institutions and respect the rights of journalist and human rights defenders, Ugonna Ukaigwe Duru, Programme Officer, MFWA media Law reform and legal Defence said on Wednesday.
Duru, who made the statement at the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul, The Gambia from November 10-24, 2010, added that: “The Gambia government has disregarded the ECOWAS Court decision of June 5th 2008, which declared illegal, the arrest and detention of Chief Ebrima Manneh who was arrested on July 11, 2006.”

The court also awarded US$100,000 as damages for the violation of Mr. Manneh’s rights which provides that, “Every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his persons, no one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law, se said, adding that ‘no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained’.
She said MFWA calls on the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to take all the necessary measures to ensure that the Gambian government complies with obligations under African Charter.
According to her, for the thirteen years, MFWA has been monitoring attacks on free speech and expression in West Africa, results have shown that progress in media development and promotion of the rights to free expression has been very slow.
Despite the adoption of constitutional democracy in the countries of the region, national legislation continues to be dominated by repressive media laws that criminalize speech and free expression.
“In recent years, the media environment in West Africa has witness the use of anti-free expression laws by state authorities, to gag the media and limit free expression. The MFWA will like your attention to a few instances particularly in The Gambia, Ghana and Togo,” she said.
In The Gambia, she stated that the state of the media and free expression requires urgent attention. “Security officials continue to intimidate, harass and persecute media practitioners. On countless occasions, security officials have resorted to criminal charges against journalist. They have also sought to use unlawful detentions to intimidate journalists contrary to section 19(3) of the Gambian constitution,” she declared.
According to her, between 2009 – November 2010, a total of twenty journalist (20) were arrested and detained, fourteen (14) of them were charged with either ‘publishing false news; or ‘criminal defamation’ punishable on conviction by huge fines and terms of imprisonment. 

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