The Ministry of Justice has removed a provision in the amended Criminal Offences Bill that is to be tabled before lawmakers in December.
The particular provision that the Ministry amended seeks to criminalise the parental insults of the President and other public officers.
“Any person who directs parental insults to the President, Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Judicial officers, Members of the National Assembly or any public officer holding a public office or in the exercise of his or her official functions, shall be held liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand dalasi and not more than fifty thousand dalasi or a term of imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than six months or to both the fine and imprisonment,” the provision stated.
This bill has caused huge controversy in the country. Rights activists said it is meant to curtail press freedom.
However, the Ministry did not address another problematic clause in its press release published by Eye Africa TV which appears to be a replica of the sedition law declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in May 2018.
Gambia’s top court ruled in May that sedition is unconstitutional as it applies to Government in general and cabinet ministers. The court only considered sedition appropriate as it applies to the President.
The state was represented in the case by Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou. Tambadou told the court that the Government believes both sedition and criminal defamation are unconstitutional.
However, the provision in the new bill states, “Any person who insults, or does any act to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of the President, or the Government of The Gambia as by law established, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not less than fifty thousand dalasi or a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or to both the fine and imprisonment.”
Media rights activists consider this provision as problematic as the parental insult laws. This law can be used to jail journalists or activists whose conduct is seen to have “excite disaffection against the person of the President, or the Government”.