By Sanna Camara
According to Freedom in the World 2014 report which evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories globally, The Gambia scored 6 out of 7 points in its global freedom rankings during 2013. This means the country has received a “downward trend arrow”, mainly “due to worsening restrictions on civil liberties”.
These restrictions include the amendments to the Information and Communication Act and the Criminal Code Act that “further limited open and free private discussion, and a ban on the use of Skype and other voice communication programs in internet cafés.”
The Information Communication (amendment) Act 2013 imposes a jail term of up to 15 years in prison or a fine of up to three million Dalasi (about 100,000 US dollars) or both. The government argued that the law seeks to punish “instigating violence against the government or public officials”, and also targets individuals who “caricature or make derogatory statements against officials” or “impersonate public officials”.
Important declines on the continent
Each country and territory is assigned two numerical ratings—from 1 to 7—for political rights and civil liberties, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free. The two ratings are based on scores assigned to 25 more detailed indicators. The average of a country or territory’s political rights and civil liberties ratings determines whether it is Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.
The Gambia has been categorized under areas referred to as “important declines on the continent”. These countries included Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Uganda, South Sudan, the Gambia, Tanzania, and Zambia. In the Middle East, it notes deterioration for Bahrain, Lebanon, and the territory of Gaza, in addition to Egypt and Syria.
“Several of the countries experiencing gains [globally] were in Africa, including Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Madagascar, Rwanda, Togo, and Zimbabwe. However, some of these improvements represented fragile recoveries from devastating crises or slight increases from quite low baselines,” Freedom House said.
Assesses the real-world rights, freedoms enjoyed by individuals
“The methodology, which is derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is applied to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographic location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development. Freedom in the World assesses the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Political rights and civil liberties can be affected by both state and non-state actors, including insurgents and other armed groups,” explained the report.
As in the seven preceding years, the number of countries exhibiting gains for 2013, 40, lagged behind the number with declines, 54.
Regimes installed by force have given way to elected civilian rule
For the past decade or so, Africa has been the most volatile region, suffering from a disproportionate share of the world’s coups and insurgencies. But its recent history also includes a number of instances in which regimes installed by force have given way to elected civilian rule. In 2013, gains were noted in Mali, Madagascar, and Côte d’Ivoire, all of which were recovering from coups and civil conflicts. The past year also featured modest improvements for countries with authoritarian records, including Rwanda, Togo, and Zimbabwe. At the same time, there were declines for Zambia and Sierra Leone, which had been credited with promising reforms or openings in recent years.