Gambia has passed a new law which prohibits criticizing government and its officials via the internet. Under The Information Communication (amendment) Act 2013, violators could face a 15-year jail sentence, a fine of roughly $100,000 or both, Global Voices reported.
Restrictions outlined in the gag order include instigation of violence, caricaturing and issuing demeaning statements about government officials, and harshly impersonating public figures.
“This bill seeks to provide for the deterrent punishment of such persons who are engaged in such treacherous campaigns against The Gambia both internally and outside The Gambia,” Minister of Information, Communication, and Information Infrastructure, Nana Grey-Johnson said in the report.
According to Global Voices, members of Reporters Without Borders spoke out against the law and issued a statement requesting the alteration to the act be removed. The law was originally enacted in 2009.
“The authorities are using these amendments to target news providers and crack down on the Internet, one of the last spaces for freedom of information in Gambia. We call for their immediate withdrawal and a complete overhaul of the law, which already gags the media in the name of state security,” the organization wrote.
Amnesty International also expressed disappointment saying the law represses freedom of speech in the country. The new law, their statement said takes Gambia press restrictions “to a shocking new level.”
Global Voices reported that Gambia’s National Assembly faced scrutiny earlier this year for amending section 114 of the act’s Criminal Code. Instead of a maximum or six months and $17, or both; citizens who lent false information to officials now face five years in jail or a $1,650 fine.
“The amendments to the Information and Communications Act that the Gambian parliament has just adopted aggravate what is already one of Africa’s most repressive laws,” Reporters Without Borders added in their statement.
The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index ranks Gambia 152nd out of 179 countries, Global Voices reported.