Deyda Hydara, founder of the Independent newspaper The Point was an authoritative voice of Gambian media. He was gunned down in December 2004 in an orchestrated plan to silence him forever and spread fear within the media community.
Before his killing, Hydara had received many death threats, harassing and pressuring him to stop his popular column ‘Good Morning President’, where he highlighted areas of concerns in the country. Hydara fought against oppressive laws enacted to muzzle the press and restrict freedom of the media. His most notorious fight was a challenge to the Media Commission Bill put before the Supreme Court, in early 2004.
Despite the threats and harassment, he continued to enlighten the public and stand up for press freedom, an endeavour that sadly cost him his life on the 16 December 2014.
Hydara had a vision of an independent press when he set up The Point in 1991. He was an active Executive member of the West Africa Journalist Association (WAJA) and later co- founded the Gambia Press Union (GPU) with a view to having a platform for the media community to speak with one voice and create professional solidarity.
Gambia is regarded as the most repressive country in West Africa. Journalists and human rights defenders continue to be targeted by the oppressive machinery set up to close all avenues for public engagement and the emergence of independent voices. Hydara’s killing had had a major chilling effect on the media and has opened the doors for a new era of repression. Repression has increased, punctuated by the adoption of draconian laws, arbitrary arrests, secret detentions, torture, and enforced disappearances.
These human rights violations remain unpunished: the judiciary is subordinate to the Executive power of the President and the government has a blatant disregard of its basic human rights obligations.
Today marks the eleventh anniversary of Hydara’s killing. Eleven years of impunity. Eleven years of legal battles by his family. Eleven years of justice denied.
The Gambian government continues to refuse to release the autopsy report and conduct an independent inquiry into Hydara’s death. Faced with such a denial of justice, Hydara’s family pursue any and all avenues as they seek redress for their loss.
However, the government and has systematically refused to pay attention to the recommendations of the African Commission on Human and People’ Rights (ACHPR). In June 2013, the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) found that the Gambian government had failed to investigate Hydara’s murder and ordered the government to compensation to the family. The government continues to defy the ruling.
ARTICLE 19 reasserts its demand for an independent and impartial investigation into the killing of Hydara and an end to the oppression against journalists and human rights defenders.