As activists and journalists commemorate the 11 anniversary of a prominent Gambian journalist’s murder, calls for justice have intensified. Deyda Hydara, the co-founder and Editor of The Point newspaper, was shot dead by unknown assailants on December 16th, 2004. His killers remain on the loose.
“We still reiterate our call for the government to investigate the murder of Deyda Hydara,” says Gambia Press Union (GPU) President. Emil Touray renews the union’s call on the Jammeh regime to “bring the perpetrators to book in a bid to close the chapter.”
Hydara was a correspondent of many international media organisations, including the Agence France-Presse (AFP). He has been on Gambian authorities’ radar mainly due to his uncompromising stance for human rights, social justice and good governance. Through his thought-provoking and articulated editorials, the late editor fought for voiceless communities, promote freedom of expression, democracy, among others.
Many observers don’t think Mr. Touray’s call will stimulate an unwilling government to act. This is the very government whose officials turn a deaf ear to the verdict of the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice. In 2014, the sub-regional court blamed The Gambia for “failing to conduct a meaningful investigation into the murder of journalist Deyda Hydara.”
The court court pointed accusing fingers at the National Intelligence Agency for not carrying out “a proper investigation” into the unsolved gruesome murder, which took place less 100 meters from a police unit in Kanifing. The agency is also criticised for its failure to “carry out ballistic tests on the bullets and weapons recovered from suspects.”
The court lost confidence in the NIA, and questioned its impartiality. There was no evidence in court linking The Gambia government to the murder. The Abuja-based court awarded US$50,000 to Hydara’s family as compensation for the government’s failure to effectively investigate the murder. It also awarded legal cost of US$10,000.
A doyen Gambian journalist finds the government’s handling of the case too annoying. Demba Ali Jawo says “there is no hard evidence that The Gambia government or its agents are involved in Deyda’s killing, but it is quite hard for any reasonable person to explain the government’s complete lack of interest in investigating the case as if they are not interested in knowing who, killed him and why or that they have something to hide from people knowing the truth.”
President Yahya Jammeh’s unguarded public statement on Deyda’s assassination has raised more questions than answers. At one point, Mr. Jammeh bluntly told rights activists to ask Hydara about his killers.