Last week, the proposed Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act emerged from the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee with approval. The bill was passed by the Senate last year. If passed by the full House of Representatives and signed into law by the president, it has the potential to offer partial redress to one of the most chilling truths facing journalists today: in 90 percent of cases, the murders of journalists go unpunished.
Dear President Jammeh: The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent international press freedom organization, is writing to express its concern about a Gambian journalist who has been held by the National Intelligence Agency since July 17.
A climate of impunity reached a tragic culmination on November 23, 2009, when gunmen ambushed a caravan escorting political candidate Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu as he prepared to file papers to become a candidate for provincial governor in the Philippines. The attackers slaughtered 58 people, among them 30 journalists and two media workers, the largest toll of journalists murdered in a single act since CPJ began keeping track in 1992.
The United Nations has escalated its focus on journalist killings, declaring that unpunished attacks against journalists are a major threat not only to press freedom, but also to all major areas of the U.N.’s work. In recent years, it has adopted two resolutions addressing journalists’ safety and impunity and launched a plan of action. These have come on top of existing Security Council Resolution 1738, which condemns attacks against journalists in conflict. “There must be no impunity for those who target journalists for violence,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon proclaimed in a statement in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2014.
Abuja, Nigeria, June 10, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today's ruling by a West African regional court, which found that the Gambian government failed to conduct a meaningful investigation into the murder of journalist Deyda Hydara. The ruling is the first ECOWAS case relating to the murder of a Gambian journalist.
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.
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.
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.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.