Critics have accused the government of restricting free speech. A law passed in 2002 created a commission with the power to issue licenses and imprison journalists; in 2004, additional legislation allowed prison sentences for libel and slander and cancelled all print and broadcasting licenses, forcing media groups to re-register at five times the original cost.
Three Gambian journalists have been arrested since the coup attempt. It has been suggested that they were imprisoned for criticising the government’s economic policy, or for stating that a former interior minister and security chief was among the plotters.
Newspaper editor Deyda Hydara was shot to death under unexplained circumstances days after the 2004 legislation took effect.
Licensing fees are high for newspapers and radio stations, and the only nationwide stations are tightly controlled by the government.
Reporters without Borders has accused “President Yahya Jammeh’s police state” of using murder, arson, unlawful arrest and death threats against journalists.
In December 2010 Musa Saidykhan, former editor of The Independent newspaper, was awarded US$200,000 by the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria.
The court found the Government of the Gambia guilty of torture while he was detained without trial at the National Intelligence Agency. Apparently he was suspected of knowing about the 2006 failed coup.