New law against 'false news' further damages press freedom in Gambia, groups say

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Watchdog groups have condemned legislation in the tiny West African nation of Gambia that would impose prison terms of up to 15 years for publishing "false news" about government officials.

The changes to the 2009 Information and Communications Act were passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday. The bill criminalizes "derogatory statements against officials" as well as caricature, impersonations and any content "instigating violence against the government."

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Friday saying the new rules "aggravate what is already one of Africa's most repressive laws," noting that they seemed to target Internet users. Amnesty International said they take Gambia's press restrictions "to a shocking new level."

Reporters Without Borders said Information Minister Nana Grey-Johnson described the changes as "deterrent punishment" for those who would incite "unpatriotic behavior."