July 5th, 2013 07:37 AM
BANJUL—Lawmakers in the Gambia have introduced long jail terms for anyone convicted of going online to poke fun at the government or public officials.
Under the new law, Internet users face up to 15 years’ imprisonment and $90,000 fines for a raft of offenses including spreading “false news” against or even “caricaturing” government functionaries and politicians.
People taking to the Internet to impersonate public officials or to commit any offense already deemed criminal will also fall foul of the new sanctions.
“In the recent past, some citizens of the Gambia have waged concerted efforts to pit the people and the security officials of the Gambia against their government,” Information Minister Nana Grey-Johnson told parliament before tabling the bill late Wednesday.
“They do this by inciting the people to engage in unpatriotic behaviour, spreading false news and engaging in criminal defamation against government officials. Such tendencies, if unchecked, are a recipe for chaos and instability in any country.”
A sliver of land nestled within Senegal with a narrow strip of Atlantic coast, the Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh, who is often accused of muzzling journalists, among other rights abuses.
The country introduced new laws in April criminalizing male prostitution, cross-dressing and the singing of abusive songs in public.