Gambians support media freedom but want government to prevent false news and hate speech, Afrobarometer survey shows
Most Gambians support media freedom in principle but endorse government interference to prevent the publication of false news, hate speech, and views that criticize or insult the president, the latest Afrobarometer survey shows.
An overwhelming majority of Gambians say the media is in fact free to do its work without government interference.
Most Gambians get their news from the radio and television, the survey shows, but social media and the Internet are also major sources of regular news. At the same time, a majority of citizens blame social media users for knowingly spreading false news.
The Gambia’s media environment has become somewhat less restrictive in recent years, including a 2018 Supreme Court decision that the criminalization of defamation is unconstitutional. The 2021 World Press Freedom Index ranked the Gambia 85th out of 180 countries in media freedom, up two spots from the previous year.
- More than eight in 10 Gambians say the media is “completely free” (46%) or “somewhat free” (36%) to report and comment on the news without censorship or interference from by the government (Figure 1).
- Three-fourths (75%) of Gambians say they listen to radio news “every day” or “a few times a week,” making radio the country’s most widely used news source. Television is in second place (63%), followed by social media (55%) and the Internet (40%) (Figure 2).
- More than two-thirds (68%) say the media should be free to publish any views without government control (Figure 3).
- However, large majorities say the government should be able to limit or prohibit the sharing of news or information that is false (85%), hate speech (84%), and information or opinions that criticize or insult the president (76%). Four in 10 citizens (42%) approve of restrictions against information or opinions that the government disapproves of (Figure 4).
- More than eight in 10 citizens (84%) say that social media users spread information that they know is false, including 51% who say they do so “often.” Majorities also blame politicians and political parties (78%), government officials (63%), and the news media (60%) for at least “sometimes” knowingly spreading false news (Figure 5).
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, nonpartisan survey research network that provides reliable data on Africans’ experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life. Seven rounds of surveys were completed in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018. Round 8 surveys are currently underway. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.
The Afrobarometer team in the Gambia, led by the Center for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies (CePrass), interviewed 1,200 adult Gambians between 30 January and 23 February 2021. A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. A previous Afrobarometer survey was conducted in the Gambia in 2018.