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Gambia: Nine years of impunity for killing of journalist Deyda Hydara

People stand near a large picture of the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh at the media centre building in Banjul, 1 July 2006.
People stand near a large picture of the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh at the media centre building in Banjul, 1 July 2006.

AP Photo/ George Osodi

ARTICLE 19 West Africa marked the 9 year anniversary since the assassination of Deyda Hydara, journalist and co-founder of The Point and former president of the Gambia Press Union (GPU).

On the anniversary of Deyda Hydara's assassination, a commemoration event was organised to remind the Gambian authorities of their obligation to shed light on this killing and put an end to all acts that violate freedom of expression and contravene human rights in general.

During this commemoration event, an excerpt of a documentary film on Deyda Hydara was shown. The film follows on from a series of actions that call for reflection on human rights violations in the Gambia, and particularly those that affect freedom of expression and information.

On 14 December 2004, two days before his assassination and in his last article, Mr Hydara had publicly announced his determination to challenge the Media Commission Act that would impose tougher criminal penalties for defamation, make the granting of a licence to set up a newspaper dependent on lodging an exorbitant security bond, and force journalists to register with a board to be able to exercise their profession.

As of yet, no independent, impartial inquiry has been conducted to establish the truth about what happened or provide his family with justice. Political motives behind the killing have been systematically rejected by the authorities. After years of pressure, the government finally agreed to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the case, but to date no further progress has been made.

“The impunity that the perpetrators of this crime against Deyda Hydara enjoy is reprehensible from every angle. No serious effort has been made by the Gambian authorities to take any action nor to investigate this heinous act and establish the truth of what happened,” said Fatou Jagne Senghor, ARTICLE 19 Director for West Africa.

In an interview with ARTICLE 19, Marie Hydara, Deyda Hydara's daughter, recalled that: “Deyda fought for freedom of the press, democracy and justice, he always advocated these ideals and no threat or act of intimidation could ever have made him go back on them. He sacrificed his life for a noble cause.”

“As it has for many of his fellow journalists and defenders of human rights, his commitment to freedom of expression and information earned him hostility from the Gambian government. This took the form of acts of intimidation, arbitrary arrests, newspaper closures, false accusations, forced exile or disappearances,” Jagne Senghor stressed.

Recurring violations of human rights in the Gambia have yet to make any significant impression on the international community, particularly the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, despite the fact that Gambia hosts the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the main mechanism for the protection and promotion of African citizens' human rights. In light of this, ARTICLE 19 and its partners (RADDHO, CICODEV Afrique, AMNESTY International, LSDH, Y'en à Marre, ONDH, Institut Panos de l'Afrique de l'Ouest and the Forum des Editeurs Africains) are, through this commemoration, campaigning for an investigation into the killing and for repression and impunity to cease in The Gambia.

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