The Parliament of the West African Republic of Gambia has enacted measures in recent months that endange its citizens' freedom of speech and restrict press freedom, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
On the same day earlier this month that the U.S. celebrated its birthday, the Gambian Parliament revised the 2009 Information and Communication Act, increasing penalties for individuals who use the Internet to spread false information or instigate violence against or criticism of public officials to a 15-year jail term and a fine of three million Dalasis ($82,207), according to the CPJ. Gambian Information Minister Nana Grey Johnson said the measure was enacted to thwart "unpatriotic behavior" against government officials.
Back in April, the Parliament revised the Criminal Code to characterize President Yahya Jammeh and National Assembly members, among other government officials, as "public servants," although the nation's Constitution does not recognize those positions as "public servants." The amendment was accompanied by a boost in the fines and jail time assessed against individuals who provide false information to public servants.
That same month, Gambia banned the use at Internet cafes of Skype and other VoIP platforms, citing the "national interest." CPJ accused Gambian leaders of trying to shield themselves at the expense of providing citizens access to modern communications.