Media Law and Journalism in Post-Colonial Africa - The Case of The Gambia - Regulating Press Freedom: A Political Economy of Journalism in The Gambia

Bah, Sulayman (2023) Media Law and Journalism in Post-Colonial Africa - The Case of The Gambia - Regulating Press Freedom: A Political Economy of Journalism in The Gambia. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Sulayman Bah PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Aug 2022_Final Award Jun 2023.pdf - Accepted Version

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This dissertation explores how journalists operate under repressive legal and regulatory frameworks, focusing especially on The Gambia, an African country that, like others on the continent, has a contemporary legal and regulatory landscape shaped by its colonial past. It addresses wider issues of debate relating to the political economy of journalism by investigating the relationship media has with state control, ownership and press freedom. Studies from political economy scholars such as McChesney (2008), Sousa and Fidalgo (2011), Murdock and Golding (2000), John and Silberstein-Loeb (2015), Schejter and Yemini (2016) have all recognised how law and regulation can facilitate or impede news production and journalistic responsibilities. However, while political economy analyses of journalism have focused on its regulation, they rarely have a close engagement with the law. To address this gap, I bring approaches from legal research to journalism studies to show how a legal analysis of laws applicable to the practices of journalists in The Gambia can further our understanding of how such instruments are used to control media ownership and suppress press freedom.

To do this, I use an innovative, interdisciplinary methodology that brings tools from the field of law to media and cultural studies, synthesising doctrinal research alongside interviews. Through interviews with Gambian journalists I also explore how they make sense of such laws and find ways to navigate such a repressive legal framework that is inimical to media freedom. From this primary research, I show that the legal and regulatory framework of the media in The Gambia is tied to the country`s colonial heritage. It reveals significant political and economic constraints of The Gambia`s private press, and how the pro-government news media, particularly the state owned enjoys more support and dominance. I find that journalism practice in The Gambia is compounded with political repression and legal uncertainties, where court decisions against journalists are inconsistent with international human rights standards. I demonstrate that while Gambian journalists struggle to access information, particularly from the government, there was a culture of self-censorship due to fear of legal repression. However, they have also made radical responses through alternative journalism practices in order to evade such a restrictive legal framework.

I argue that the law plays an integral part in shaping the political economy of journalism, particularly in post-colonial countries such as The Gambia. I demonstrate how journalism in The Gambia is entangled in a complex legal framework, which constrains its independence and make the claim for legislative reforms that are consistent with international human rights standards. I show that there needs to be a greater engagement with the law and legal instruments in order to further understand its political economy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
30 August 2022Submitted
7 June 2023Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Media Law, Journalism, Political Economy, Press Freedom, Doctrinal Research
Subjects: CAH16 - law > CAH16-01 - law > CAH16-01-01 - law
CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-04 - journalism
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of English and Media
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2023 14:02
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 14:02

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