Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Who Killed Deyda Hydara?

Slain Gambian journalists leader - Deyda Hydara
Gunmen, who remain at large, killed Deyda Hydara, the co-proprietor and managing editor of The Point newspaper in a drive-by shooting on the night of December 16, 2004.

His murder which coincided with the 13th anniversary of his newspaper, plunge Gambia's media fraternity into a mood of despondency that it is yet to recover from, leaving civil and human rights organisations around the world in utter disbelief.  

An erstwhile Gambia Press Union (GPU) President and an advocate for press freedom and of expression, Deyda has been a well-known critic of government policies and programmes and fought for the improvement of the living standards of the ever growing poor populations in the country. 

His criticisms have been published in his newspaper's editorials and two columns "Good Morning Mr. President" and "The Bite".

Deyda and his cohorts fought tooth and nail in court for the repeal of the 2002 National Media Commission (NMC), which was later disbanded in 2004 following the repulsion of the law that formed it. The government-appointed Commission required journalists to register, compel them to disclose their sources and to try and jail journalists.

“Deyda Hydara’s shooting death is believed to be tied to his principled and fierce opposition to the new Media Bill that was introduced by Gambia’s National Assembly, which sought to severely curtail and restrict the space in which the Gambian media exercised their civil rights and practiced their craft,” the newly formed pro-democracy grouping, Civil Society Associations-Gambia (CSAG) said.

His family has decided off late to charge the Gambia Government to the Abuja-based ECOWAS Community Court of Justice with the support of the Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA).

They want the government to thoroughly investigate Deyda’s death and preferably bring the perpetrators to book. The Accra-based press freedom and free expression watchdog, MFWA has won two cases (disappeared and tortured journalists) against the Gambia government at the same court in 2008 and 2011.
The Gambia Government has repeatedly denied having a hand in Deyda's death. In a recent BBC interview, Gambia's President Yahya AJJ Jammeh denied that the government's security agents had killed him. "Listen to me: Is he the only Gambian who died? Is he better than Gambians who die in accidents, Gambians who die at sea, Gambians who die on their way to Europe?" Mr Jammeh asked.

A few day's to the seventh anniversary of the gruesome murder, the GPU argues that "despite repeated calls for the State to investigate the murder and punish the culprits, no discernible step has been taken so far. The first report on the murder conducted by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 2005 openly blamed the decease for his own death."

"It came up with all sorts of hypotheses without pushing the clues. And since then, there has been no further action on the matter," Gambian journalists parent body added.

CPJ: Deyda Hydara and his wife Maria circa 1989 (Hydara family)
In 2009, the Publisher and Proprietor of The Daily News newspaper and former GPU President, Madi M.K. Ceesay said of the stalled investigations “the earlier the better for us all, it is not in the interest of Gambian journalists neither in the interest of the government, it is in the interest of us all.” 
"It is five years since he was murdered, why did it take this long to apprehend the perpetrators”, he asked”.

In the quest to seek justice for the slain journalist and promote press freedom in the country, the GPU in cooperation with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Association of Non Governmental Organisation (TANGO) on December 17, 2011 organised a public lecture on the theme "Role of the Media in Creating an Open Society" to commemorate the murder of Deyda Hydara. 

It has become a tradition that every year the media in the country remember the day with public lectures, addressing pertinent issues that affect journalism, journalists and development in general.

Participants at the event wore t-shirts bearing Deyda’s image at the front with an inscription at the back asking: Who killed Deyda Hydara?
Hopelessly, a Gambian journalist said: “This is the question most widely asked for almost a decade. I wish those responsible for this cowardly act could have openly showed up in our life time.” 

Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004) was a co-founder and primary editor of The Point, a major independent Gambian newspaper. He was also a correspondent for both AFP News Agency and Reporters Without Borders for more than 30 years. He also worked as a Presenter at a Swedish-owned amplitude modulation broadcaster in Gambia, Radio Syd during his early years as a freelance journalist.

On December 16, 2004, Hydara was killed in his car by unidentified gunmen; two of his colleagues were also injured. As of December 2011, his murder remains unsolved.
Deyda Hydara is survived by his wife and his five children. 

The author is a Gambian journalist, News Editor of The Voice Newspaper in Banjul and Publisher of The North Bank Evening Standard. 
He twits  (@Msjoof)


1 comment:

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