In an unprecedented move, members of the National Assembly yesterday amended the Information and Communications Act 2009, stipulating a 15-year-jail term or a fine of D3 million, or both fine and imprisonment, on any person who spreads false news against the Government of The Gambia or its public officials.
Under the new act, "a person commits an offence if he or she uses the internet to spread false news against the Government or public officials; incite dissatisfaction or instigate violence against the Government or public officials; or caricature, abuse or make derogatory statements against the person or character of public officials".
The Act further stipulates that a person commits an offence if he or she uses the internet to impersonate any public official; blackmail any person; or threaten to commit a criminal offence against any person.
This section, according to the provisions of the act, shall apply to all persons without regard to the place from which the offence was committed.
Tabling the motion before deputies for amendment, the minister of Information and Communication and Information Infrastructure, Nana Grey-Johnson, said in 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.
"They do this by inciting the people to engage in unpatriotic behaviour, spreading false news and engaging in criminal defamation against Government officials," Information Minister Nana Grey-Johnson told parliament before tabling the bill.
Nana Grey-Johnson noted that such tendencies, if unchecked, are a recipe for chaos and instability in any country.
"Therefore 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," he added.
The Information and Communication Bill was first enacted by the National Assembly on 6 April 2009.