Gambia banning criticism on the internet
The Gambian government has passed a law that seeks to issue severe punishments for speech on the internet that it critical of the autocratic government.
As it grows in popularity throughout the world, many people are finding different ways in which to express themselves on the internet. In many countries such as the United States, this can come in the form of a post on a forum, a statement on Twitter, or even something as simple as a "like" on Facebook. While such forms of expression may seem assumed in many parts of the world, in others this is simply not the case.
The internet can be an important place to engage in political discussion. As issues arise, cyberspace provides a valuable and constructive place for people to expression their opinion on the issues. For example, online petitions play an important role in displaying widespread public dissent. However, in places where internet freedom is not as wide spread, such action can comes at a steep price.
Gambia's new law
The Gambian government has passed a law that effectively bans any form of government criticism on the internet. The law is especially directed towards those who are probably the most tech savvy in the country – the youth, Media Foundation West Africa explains. In a meeting with political and religious leaders, the Head of Civil Service and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally explained that there would be an increase in government crackdowns aimed at limiting those who speak out against the government.
"If you cannot say anything good about the country, then you should keep quiet," the Minister reportedly said, according to the news source. While such a statement may have been applicable in the schoolyard, in the realm of public dissent, this is hardly the case. Strong democracies rely on the ability of citizens being able to voice their concerns with the state of the country, and such a law severely limits this right.
Violation of the law can result in a jail term of 15 years and/or a fine to the tune of around $90,000.
Global Voices Online explains that the law aims to prevent those who are spreading false news about the government, or starting campaigns that incite dissatisfaction.
Such a law blatantly limits the rights of citizens within the country to express their opinions, but it should also prompt others to think about how such freedoms are limited in their own countries. Though such forms of speech can seem subversive to governments, it should not be overlooked that many democracies were born out of such speech.