Letters   |   Gambia

CPJ outraged by conduct of probe into editor's murder

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that six months after the assassination of veteran journalist Deyda Hydara, official investigations into his murder have failed to make any significant progress in finding his killers. We are outraged at the recent National Intelligence Agency (NIA) investigation report, which bears more resemblance to a smear campaign against Hydara and his colleagues than an objective report by professionals.

Hydara, managing editor and co-owner of the independent newspaper The Point, as well as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reporters without Borders (RSF), was shot in the head and chest by unidentified assailants while he drove home from his office in the capital, Banjul, late on December 16, 2004. Two other staff members of The Point, Ida Jagne-Joof and Nyansarang Jobe, were in the car with Hydara and were wounded in the attack. Investigations were initially assigned to the Gambian police, before being taken over by the NIA in February.

On June 3, your government released to the press a "confidential" NIA report on the investigations so far. The report contains a series of allegations about Hydara's private life and subjective value judgments on his character and professionalism--while failing to detail any forensic evidence or to explore possible links between his murder and a series of unsolved arson attacks and threats against independent media in the Gambia. Investigators have the obligation to explore all possible motives, but the public release of such information without any substantiated link to the crime serves only to assassinate the character of a murder victim who cannot defend himself.

During a mission to the Gambia in April, CPJ was able to meet with NIA investigators. On the basis of that meeting, we stated that there were indications the investigations were being carried out in good faith. In the light of this latest report, we no longer believe this to be the case. Based on our meetings with local journalists and government officials, we expressed concern that a fundamental lack of trust was hampering the investigations--particularly since the authorities are themselves suspected of links to attacks on the media. Instead of fostering trust, this report is likely to further alienate potential witnesses and undermine public confidence in the investigation.

To restore public trust and further the cause of justice, we believe the investigation should be handed over to an independent commission, to be established in consultation with Gambian journalists, and members of the human rights and legal community. Investigators should seek the help of qualified international experts in collecting and evaluating forensic evidence.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.


Sincerely,

Ann Cooper
Executive Director

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