Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Gambia: 15 years jail time or $100K for publishing ‘false news’

The National Assembly in Banjul on Wednesday approved the “Information Communication (amendment) Act 2013” which allows 15 years jail time for spreading “false news” against the government or public officials online.

Section 173A of the Internet related offences also allows for a fine of D3 million (about USD$100,000) if a person uses the internet to “spread false news against the Government or public officials”.

The new law also provides the same punishment for persons who “Incite dissatisfaction or instigate violence against the Government or public officials”, “caricature, abuse or make derogatory statements against the person or character of officials”, “impersonate any public official”, “blackmail any person”, or “threaten to commit a criminal offence against any person”. 

A person who commits an offence under the above is liable, on conviction, to a fine of D3 million or imprisonment for fifteen years or both, the bill stated. This section shall apply to all persons without regard to the place from which the offence was committed.

Information Minister, Nana Grey Johnson,  claims "Gambians have waged concerted efforts to pit people and security officials against their Government".

Nana Grey Johnson, who brought the bill to the National Assembly for approval, claims: “In the recent past, some citizens have waged concerted efforts to pit the people and the security officials of The Gambia against their Government.” 
“They do this by inciting the people to engage in unpatriotic behaviour, spreading false news and engaging in criminal defamation against Government officials,” the Minister of Information, Communication, and Information Infrastructure, said on 3 July, 2013.

Such tendencies, if unchecked, are a recipe for “chaos and instability” in any country, he added.

According to him, this Information Communication (amendment) Act 2013 seeks to provide for the deterrent punishment of such persons who are engaged in such “treacherous campaigns” against The Gambia both within and outside The Gambia.  

Written by Modou S. Joof
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