Deyda Hydara

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Deyda Hydara and his wife Maria circa 1989 (Hydara family)

In the eight years since unidentified assailants shot and killed Deyda Hydara of the Gambia, no one has been held to account. The late 2004 murder of Hydara, an immensely respected editor, columnist, and press freedom advocate known for his criticism of President Yahya Jammeh's repressive media policies, became a rallying point for Gambian journalists and the human rights community--a symbol of the violent means by which activists and journalists are silenced and of the impunity that envelops acts of intimidation, ranging from arson to torture and murder. 

Deyda Hydara and his wife Maria circa 1989 (Hydara family)

December 16 will be the seventh anniversary of the killing of Deyda Hydara, the dean of Gambian journalism. It is also the 20th anniversary of the first issue of The Point, the courageously independent-minded daily that Hydara founded and directed for many years. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting as he drove himself and two staff members home from an evening of somber celebration at The Point's premises. He had received multiple death threats in the preceding weeks and months. In his last column, he vowed to keep fighting to the end for Gambians' right to speak their minds.

No sacrifices to the "altar of freedom of the press," says Jammeh. (AFP)

Last week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh participated in a rare meeting with select members of the West African nation's press corps. Jammeh spoke in favor of access to public information. He announced that he would allow The Standard newspaper to resume publication, five months after the National Intelligence Agency forced its editor, Sheriff Bojang, to halt production. But the president largely lashed out at the Gambian private press and critics of his repressive media policies in the meeting, a tense session that was broadcast on state television. Jammeh, a former army captain who seized power in a 1994 coup, spoke in a harsh and contemptuous tone as he addressed media owners invited to the State House in the capital, Banjul.

Deyda Hydara TrustI can still vividly recall how the news of Deyda Hydara's killing was relayed to me on the morning of December 17, 2004, after I returned from a trip to Zambia the previous night. Very early that morning, I called his childhood friend and partner at The Point, Pap Saine, who told me: "They shot him dead last night." I had to pinch myself to realize that I was not actually dreaming.

A billboard for a tourism conference in Gambia. (CPJ)

Who would not like to enjoy luxurious beach resorts and quaint fishing villages on the “Smiling Coast of Africa”? This is the pitch that the Gambian government made to participants of an international tourism conference last week. In fact, behind the idyllic facade of a tropical paradise wedged on Africa's western Atlantic coast is the grimace of Gambia's independent press. 

CPJ challenges authorities in 10 nations
to bring justice and reverse culture of impunity

Protesters in Manila seek justice in the Maguindanao massacre. (Reuters/Romeo Ranoco) New York, April 29, 2010—In the Philippines, political clan members slaughter more than 30 news media workers and dump their bodies in mass graves. In Sri Lanka, a prominent editor who has criticized authorities is so sure of retaliation that he predicts his own murder. In Pakistan, a reporter who embarrassed the government is abducted and slain. In these and hundreds of other journalist killings worldwide, no one has been convicted.

Al-Shabaab militants patrol Mogadishu's Bakara Market, home to several media outlets. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)By Tom Rhodes

High numbers of local journalists have fled several African countries in recent years after being assaulted, threatened, or imprisoned, leaving a deep void in professional reporting. The starkest examples are in the Horn of Africa nations of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, where dozens of journalists have been forced into exile. Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the Gambia have also lost large segments of the local press corps in the face of intimidation and violence.
Top Developments
•  Hydara murder unsolved; secrecy surrounds Manneh detention.
•  Domestic, international pressure prompts Jammeh to halt crackdown.

Key Statistic
6: Journalists jailed for sedition after saying president’s remarks on Hydara case were insensitive.


Authorities jailed six journalists after their publications said President Yahya Jammeh had been insensitive in televised remarks about the unsolved 2004 murder of prominent Gambian editor Deyda Hydara. The six, convicted in August on baseless charges of sedition, were sentenced to two years in prison but were freed in September after Jammeh, facing considerable domestic and international pressure, issued pardons.

September 2009 

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists


Sarata Jabbi-Dibba's family rejoices as she returns home. (The Point) On an ordinary Friday, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, a reporter in the West African nation of Gambia, publishes her weekly column on women’s issues, “She She She,” in the only independent daily newspaper here, The Point. Last Friday however, Dibba was herself a newsmaker—after recovering her freedom.

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