Title: Netizen Report: Gambia Supreme Court ruling leaves the future of free speech uncertain
Date: Fri, 11 May 2018 13:06:25 -0400
Podcast Download URL: https://advox.globalvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/gambia-protest-2017-YT-ss-400x300.png
Protesters in the Gambia following the election of Adama Barrow in 2017.
Screenshot from YouTube video, widely circulated.
The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges,
victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.
The Supreme Court in the Gambia struck down the 2013 Information and
Communication Amendment (ICA) Act, declaring it unconstitutional. The court
nevertheless upheld key sections of the country’s sedition law. Both have been
used as tools for media repression.
The ruling is the result of a 2015 court filing by the Gambia Press Union
challenging the constitutionality of sedition, libel, criminal defamation, and
false news laws. The regional court of the Economic Community of West African
States recently ruled on the same laws, in a case brought by four exiled
Gambian journalists, and found them all unconstitutional.
But the Gambian Supreme Court thought differently. The ruling upheld sedition
laws that can be used to punish critical speech or journalistic investigations
related to the president, while it struck down the a 2013 amendment to the ICA,
which criminalized online defamation and the spread of “false news” on the
internet. Violators were subject to heavy fines and prison terms of up to 15
years in prison.
On Twitter, Gambian journalist Sanna Camara described the ICT Act as one of
the “toughest internet laws in Africa.” Camara himself faced legal threats
in the Gambia for his coverage of human trafficking, published by The Standard.
In 2014, Camara was accused of publishing “false news” and fled the country
The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Angela Quintal described the decision
as “one step forward, two steps backwards.”
“[The ruling] sends a message that journalists are still not free to work
without the threat of criminal prosecution,” she said.
The ruling marks the court’s first major decision affecting free speech since
the 2017 transition of power from long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh to current
president Adama Barrow. Shortly after assuming office, Barrow freed hundreds of
prisoners and launched a series of investigations into alleged human rights
violations under the Jammeh regime. But activists and citizens who speak their
minds in public spaces online and off have continued to do so under pressure.
In February 2018, a university lecturer was detained over comments he made
to a local media outlet. Just this past week, youth activists were arrested
after calling attention to the threat of environmental degradation caused
by Golden Lead, a Chinese-owned fish processing factory in the coastal
settlement of Gunjur.
Tanzanian court puts ‘blogger tax’ on hold, for now
A Tanzanian High Court has halted the implementation of the US $900
“blogger tax” imposed by the government as part of the Electronic and
Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations which demanded that
bloggers paid a fine or cease blogging.
Six human right groups in the country had asked the court to review the
regulations, arguing that the Minister of Information acted outside his
authority and in violation of the right to freedom of expression. Though
temporary, the high court ruling is a win for free speech in Tanzania.
Honduran journalist followed after receiving death threats on Facebook
Honduran broadcast journalist Mauricio Ortega received a death threat over
Facebook messenger, not long after conducting a series of reports on incidents
of passengers being physically assaulted on public transport. Later that day,
he was followed by a car with no license plates. In an interview with the
Honduran Committee for Free Expression, he said:
…las amenazas en contra de nosotros es lamentablemente hasta normal, estamos
acostumbrados a que los que se sienten ofendidos nos insulten, amenacen y nos
desacrediten y tristemente no hay confianza ni eficiencia en los entes
encargados de administrar o impartir justicia, esto nos vuelve más
…threats against us have unfortunately become normal, we’re accustomed to
being insulted, threatened and discredited by those who take offense at our
work. And sadly, there is little trust or efficiency in those who are
supposed to ensure justice, which leaves us that much more vulnerable.
Mobile networks falter as Russians protest Putin’s inauguration
As protests broke out across Russia, approaching Vladimir Putin's official
inauguration into his fourth term as president, several activists reported that
their mobile phone signals became weak or non-existent. Some said Russian
telecom operators were intentionally degrading the quality of service or even
delisting their numbers at the orders of the authorities. Activist Denis
Styazhkin reported that his telco operator, Beeline, told him that his
number had been de-listed on police orders.
China’s censors have their eyes on Peppa Pig
A Chinese internet subculture connecting the TV cartoon character “Peppa Pig”
with “Shehuiren”, a term that refers to organized crime syndicates, has
resulted in a muddy puddle for the popular porker. After leading state media
outlets criticized the inkage, the popular Chinese video platform Douyan
removed more than 30,000 videos of the cheerful pink character and made the
term “Peppa Pig” unsearchable on its website, likely anticipating an all-out
ban on Peppa.
Egyptian legislators move to monitor Uber rides
On May 7, Egypt’s parliament passed a law that will require ride-hailing
services like Uber and the UAE-based Careem to establish servers in Egypt for
the processing of all data pertaining to Egypt-based users. The law, which is
still awaiting executive approval, obligates these companies to provide user
data (including information about the location of both riders and drivers) to
security authorities at their request. Both companies were temporarily
suspended in March 2018 after a group of local taxi operators sued the
companies on licensing grounds.
Will biometric ID cards become mandatory in Europe?
The European Commission proposed new counterterrorism measures including the
mandatory inclusion of biometric data in ID cards and residence documents
for EU residents and their family members. This measure would require the
majority of EU residents to be fingerprinted so that biometric identifiers can
be checked at border points.
One voter got Cambridge Analytica to hand over his data. What about the rest of
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has given Cambridge Analytica 30 days
to hand over all the data and personal information it has on one American
voter, or face a criminal prosecution. The voter, David Carroll, found that
because Cambridge Analytica had processed US voter data in the UK, he could
assert his rights under British laws. Cambridge Analytica announced this week
that it has gone into liquidation.
Declaration from World Press Freedom Day
Participants at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day International Conference
released the Accra Declaration calling on UNESCO member states to create
and strengthen legal and policy frameworks to ensure respect for free
expression and privacy and to protect safety of journalists and media workers.
* Hate Speech Laws in India – Centre for Communication Governance,
National Law University, Delhi
* So this is democracy? State of media freedom in Southern Africa 2017 –
Media Institute of Southern Africa
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Afef Abrougui, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Nwachukwu Egbunike, Mohamed
ElGohary, Rohith Jyothish, Demba Kandeh, Leila Nachawati, and
Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.
Written by Netizen Report Team · · View original post [en] · comments
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