Gambia: New cyber law ‘Too sad and discouraging’

Online community reacts to new cyber law

By Sanna Camara

Following the enactment of a new law amending the Information and Communication Act 2009, massive reactions have been flooding the cyberspace through social networks and other online media with one Ansu Junior referring to it as ‘too sad and discouraging’.

According to the government of The Gambia, the law seeks to provide for the deterrent punishment of persons who are engaged in ‘treacherous campaigns’ against The Gambia, both internally and externally. The national assembly on Wednesday gave the bill its blessing.

D3million fine, 15 years jail term

“Were our parliamentarians drugged before passing this new, stupid law? Now, anyone found guilty of spreading in the internet false news against government and its officials is liable to a fine of D3m or a jail term of 15 years. Truly, it’s about time that we turn the hands of this diabolically-ticking clock and create an environment in which rights and freedoms will be respected,” a Gambian journalist, whose paper was among three media houses closed last year without a court order, wrote on his facebook wall.

Includes internet-related offences

Presented before lawmakers by the Mr. Nana Grey-Johnson, Information and Communication Infrastructure minister, the Bill was named “Information and Communications Amendment Act”, and includes internet-related offences under Section 173A.

“A person commits an offence if he or she uses the internet to – spread false news against the government or public officials; incite dissatisfaction or instigate violence against the government or public officials; impersonate any public official; blackmail any person; or threaten to commit a criminal offence against any person,” the bill stated.

The people, security officials against their government

Information minister, Nana-Grey Johnson, is reported to have told deputies that in the recent past, some citizens of The Gambia have waged concerted efforts to pit the people and the nation’s security officials against their government.

He stressed that they do this by inciting the people to engage in “unpatriotic behaviour, spreading false news and engaging in criminal defamation against government officials.”

Creating and amending bad laws

A blogger, calling himself Jong Kendeh, commented that Minister Grey-Johnson should take cue from ex-Minster Jobarteh’s experience…. “Be careful of bad laws you enact,” he also wrote on facebook.

“I seriously bet that the hands that create and amend that law will be the recipients of its gesture … And that will be one of the moments for our parliamentarians regret allowing such laws to exist,” wrote Ebrahim Bah, a teacher and writer

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