The West African Journalists Association (WAJA) has welcomed the lawsuit filed before the ECOWAS Court by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) against the regime of Yahya Jammeh in The Gambia.
The action is “to challenge the repressive media laws which have created a pervasive culture of persecution, violence, and injustice against journalists in The Gambia.”
Along with three exiled Gambian Journalists, FAJ successfully filed the case on Monday December 7, 2015, with support from the UK based Media Legal Defense Initiative (MLDI.) FAJ and the journalists have told the Court that their rights to freedom of expression have been violated, including through the use of criminal laws that prohibit criticism of the government.
The petitioners have contested the existence of the laws, which they say have their roots in colonial times to suppress dissent, and now specifically used to target journalists and human rights defenders.
WAJA is particularly concerned about the willful detentions, criminal prosecution, torture, murder and disappearance of Gambian journalists with impunity since President Yahya Jammeh forced himself into power in 1994. Mr. Jammeh has even failed to launch an investigation into the death in 2004 of journalist Deyda Hydara, despite the ECOWAS Court’s ruling for the Government to do so.
To date, more than one hundred journalists have been forced to flee the tiny West African country for fear of being persecuted. “There must be a cutoff point to this continuing harassment of journalists,” says WAJA President Peter Quaqua.
WAJA calls on the ECOWAS Authority and the international community to pressure Mr. Jammeh to end this careless used of power before it triggers yet another potential conflict in the sub-region.