It is one of the smallest countries in Africa and unlike most of its neighbors; The Gambia has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence. The current president, Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and has ruled with an iron fist ever since. Stability has not however translated into prosperity. The Gambia has few natural resources and its economy is dependent on peanut exports.
In 2013, President Jammeh announced The Gambia’s departure from the Commonwealth, dismissing it as a “neo-colonial” institution. Critics said the move was motivated by anger at foreign criticism of the country’s human rights record. (www.bbc.com)
At a Glance
Politics: President Yahya Jammeh
Official language(s): English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula
Population: 1.8 million (UN, 2012)
National Anthem: For The Gambia Our Homeland
Freedom of Expression: The Gambia has become popular in the international news because of its continuous violation of Human rights. Human rights defenders, journalists and individuals are persecuted by government authorities and law enforcement bodies. The Gambia’s Information and Communications Act – passed by the National Assembly on July 3 – which penalize those who spread “false news or information” against the government. These amendments further restrict freedom of expression, press freedom and internet freedom in The Gambia and demonstrate the government’s open hostility towards the media. The Act criminalizes this offense with prison sentence of up to 15 years or a fine of approximately $100,000 USD.
The Gambia’s Information and Communication indicated that the bill is meant to curb anti-government internet activism and specifically among members of the Gambian Diaspora and anyone demonstrating “unpatriotic behavior” especially on the internet.
The Gambia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2013 and Freedom of the Press 2013. The government does not respect freedom of the press. Laws on sedition give the authorities great discretion in silencing dissent, and independent media outlets and journalists are subject to harassment, arrest, and violence.
Click here to read further about the freedom of expression environment in The Gambia.
Visit BBC Country profile for more about The Gambia.