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Government Pays Compensation to Four Journalists Whose Rights Were Violated

The government has paid compensation to four journalists whose rights were violated during the regime of Yahya Jammeh.

The compensation followed a February 2018 landmark ruling at the Ecowas Community Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria, ordering the Gambian government to pay D6 million to journalists Fatou Camara, Lamin Fatty, Alagie Jobe and Fatou Jaw Manneh for violation of their rights.

The four journalists were variously charged and prosecuted under anti-free speech laws that the sub-regional court condemned as undemocratic, ruling that the enforcement constituted a violation of freedom of press.

“I am glad that The Gambia has endorsed the Ecowas Court judgment. I hope this serves as a lesson for governments to allow journalists to do our work without harassment or intimidation. Our rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and freedom of movement should always be respected,” said Fatou Camara.

The suit against the government was filed in 2015 by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), along with the then four exiled journalists. It followed consultations between the Gambia Press Union and Media Legal Defence Initiative, who supported the GPU to launch a similar initiative at the Supreme Court of The Gambia.

The GPU has confirmed that each of the four journalists on Tuesday May 28 received the dalasi equivalent of US$25, 000 from the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou.

Ecowas Community Court of Justice in Abuja

“The payment of the compensation is an important step towards addressing the crimes committed against these journalists who have suffered enormously under the former government,” said Sheriff Bojang Jr., the President of the GPU. “This move by the government is highly appreciated and we encourage them to swiftly deal with other pending payments, including the one for Musa Saidykhan and the completion of payment for the family of Deyda Hydara.”

Mr Bojang Jr. added: “On behalf of the good people of The Gambia, I wish to thank Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and our parent body, the Federation of African Journalists, for their support and cooperation during those very difficult times. The journalists also have to be commended for accepting to participate in case the knowing the potential dangers.”

Meanwhile, in the Ecowas ruling, the Gambia government was also ordered to decriminalise anti-press freedom laws, including sedition, defamation and false news. The GPU therefore calls on the government to go beyond the payment of compensation and fully implement the decision of the Court by repealing laws that undemocratically interfere with the right to freedom of expression.

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