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NEWS  

Issues of Media, Freedom and Human Rights in West Africa
By Compiled by Bampia Bundu
Sep 14, 2010, 17:06
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Nigerian rights defender jailed in the Gambia; his organization banned indefinitely

 

The Banjul Magistrate court presided over by Hilary Abeke on September 6, 2010 suspended indefinitely, a human rights NGO, Africa in Democracy and Good Governance (ADG) from operating in the country and sentenced its Nigerian Director of Programmes, Edwin Nebolisa Kwakaeme, to a mandatory six-month prison term with hard labour for giving false information to the office of President Yahya Jammeh. 


Media Foundation for West Africa(MFWA)s sources in The Gambia reported  that Kwakaeme has been ordered to surrender all documents of the organization in his  possession  to  the  court  and  pay a fine  of 10, 000  Dalasis (about US$ 330) as fine  or in default,  serve  an extra three years imprisonment with hard labour.


Before the sentence, the activist had been on remand for seven months.  He had spent a one and half weeks in police custody.


The sources  said  Kwakaeme  is  a publisher of  a  privately-owned quarterly  Window  magazine  which  has  been  reporting  on  human  rights  violations  in the  country. He  was  arrested  on  March 8, after  he had written  to the office of President Jammeh  requesting   him  to  make   his daughter  a  goodwill ambassador to  the ADG.

 

This judgment vindicates MFWAs position about President Jammehs regime which has systematically undermined all political and social institutions in the country. Apart from journalists, political opponents have also been target of the repressive regime. 

 

*On April 1, 2010, Femi Peters, the campaign manager of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), was jailed for one year.  He was first arrested on October, 25 2009 in connection with a rally held in Serekunda on October 24 and charged with two criminal counts of Control of procession and Control of use of loud speaker under the Public Order Act.

Togo

 

President Gnassingb files another suit against newspaper

President Faure Essozimna Gnassingb of Togo has filed another suit against Lom-based privately-owned La lantern newspaper over an August 12, 2010 publication that he has claimed were false and insulting to his reputation.

This brings to five, the number of legal suits that President Gnassingb has initiated against three newspapers in August.  He had earlier brought four other suits against LIndpendant Express and Libert newspapers.


The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)s correspondent in Togo reported that La lantern had in its Issue No. 90 accused   President Gnassingb of mismanaging the affairs of the country.


The article in question was with the headline: Faure Gnassingbs inability to govern (is being) confirmed day in, day out.

 

The newspaper  also said in the  same  article  that :Togos situation is going  from bad  to worse ( and  that) the  head  of  state first  term  has  been  a total  failure, as a result  of luxurious lifestyles  of  President Gnassingb and his friends and massive violations  of human rights. The Lom Magistrate court has fixed September 8 as the day it will commence hearing of this latest suit.

Liberia

 

Liberia shows the way as legislature Okays FOI Law in West Africa

The Liberia Legislature has demonstrated their strong commitment in promoting good governance in the country by passing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill into law.


On September 3, 2010,  the  Upper House  of  the Liberia Legislature  endorsed the  FOI  Bill,  two  months   after the  Lower  House had  unanimously passed  it.  The Bill was first laid in the house in 2008.

With this happy development, it is now left with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman to be elected head-of-state in Africa, to sign the Bill into law. 

 

President  Johnson Sirleaf  has  never  hidden  her intention  to do so as she  is poised  to   make  another  history  by leading Liberia  to become  the first country in West Africa to  have  a comprehensive  right to information  law.


Nigeria and Ghana came close to passing the law. In Nigeria, for instance, former President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to sign the Bill into law after it had been passed by both Chambers of the Nigerian Parliament, before leaving office. Since then, his successors have also not shown much commitment to passing the law. The FOI Bill is now the oldest bill currently before the National Assembly.  The draft   has to be reinitiated again per the Nigeria law.


In Ghana,  after so many years that  the Bill  was  drafted,   it  has gone  through  the first  reading  and  civil  society  groups have raised   red flags  about  the rush  to passing  the Bill into law.

 

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is happy about the bold example of Liberia and urges other countries in the region to emulate this act.

For more information please contact:

Kwame Karikari (Prof)

Executive Director

MFWA


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