25 January 2012

Former minister gets life sentence for seditious T-shirt

The T-shirt that landed former Gambian information minister Amadou Scatred Janneh a life sentence
The T-shirt that landed former Gambian information minister Amadou Scatred Janneh a life sentence
A former Gambian information minister has been sentenced to life for conspiring to overthrow the President with T-shirts demanding an end to dictatorship, report the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and ARTICLE 19.

Amadou Scatred Janneh - who is also a U.S. national - was found guilty of treason and distributing seditious T-shirts after a seven-month trial.

The T-shirts read, "Coalition for Change The Gambia, End Dictatorship Now".

Three other coalition members were sentenced to three years with hard labour, while three members who are currently out of the country could face prosecution if they return, says ARTICLE 19.

"Printing T-shirts with political slogans is a basic form of expression. It is absurd to make this a criminal offence, let alone punish it with a prison sentence," said ARTICLE 19.

"This decision testifies to the worsening climate of censorship in the country and the urgent need to repeal its harsh media laws," ARTICLE 19 continued.

President Yahya Jammeh - who was re-elected in November for the fourth time in a widely criticised poll boycotted by West African observers - has been accused of oppressing his critics. Two days after the sentence was passed, he vowed to crackdown further on political opponents and journalists in a speech that was broadcast on national television, reports ARTICLE 19.

Under the Gambian Criminal Code, it is a criminal offence to publish and distribute material that incites hatred, contempt or disaffection against the president or the government. A growing number of African countries have removed these offences from their statute book, says ARTICLE 19.

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