One year later, murderers of leading editor still free

New York, December 15, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that the murderers of leading Gambian editor and press freedom activist Deyda Hydara have not been brought to justice a year after his death. As local and international press freedom groups mark the anniversary on Friday, CPJ renews its call to the Gambian government to take urgent steps to conduct a thorough and independent probe and end the culture of impunity.

“The government’s own investigation has led to no arrests and produced nothing of substance. Instead, investigators waged an outrageous smear campaign against the victim himself,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “With investigators having lost their credibility, President Yahya Jammeh and his government should pay heed to the many international calls to commission an independent probe.”

Hydara, managing editor and co-owner of the independent newspaper The Point, as well as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse and Reporters Without Borders, was shot in the head 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 were in the car with Hydara and were wounded in the attack.

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) took over the investigation from police in February. In June, the NIA issued a report that failed to detail any forensic evidence and was widely seen as an attempt to smear Hydara’s reputation. Investigators said that Hydara had “recklessly provoked” numerous people, focusing on his personal life without any evidence it was related to the crime.

Since the June report was issued, authorities have been silent on the probe. See CPJ’s June 16 alert:

Hydara’s murder followed a series of unsolved arson attacks on independent journalists and media outlets. It also coincided with the introduction of repressive new media laws that Hydara, a frequent critic of Jammeh, had opposed.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Deyda Hydara at this difficult time,” Cooper said. “His many friends and colleagues will continue their efforts to seek justice. Allowing the killers to go unpunished is an affront to freedom and democracy in the entire region.”