- Six months have passed since The Gambia's most prominent editor, Deyda Hydara, was gunned down by unknown assaulters. No progress has been made into the investigation of his murder and the suspicion that he was killed by government agents is gaining ground. Mr Hydara's son is now appealing "for justice to be done" on broadcasters all over Africa.
Baba Hydara, the son of the famous editor, together with the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today launched an Africa-wide campaign to press for real investigations into the murder case. The Gambia's government has "spent the last six months trying to hush up" the killing, according to RSF.
Exactly six months after Mr Hydara's murder, RSF called on radio stations across Africa to broadcast a 30-second spot featuring the voice of his son, Baba. In the radio appeal made in Paris, Baba Hydara says in French and English, "My father was killed six months ago. His killers are still at large. The government is sullying his memory. My family and I ask for justice to be done."
RSF had made two fact-finding visits to The Gambia, in December and April, partly to support his family and his newspaper 'The Point', but also in attempt to advance an investigation that was going nowhere. The activists were able to reconstruct how Hydara spent his last day and it identified a number of leads and hypotheses, "which any serious investigators ought to have pursued," the groups says in a statement.
In particular, it was discovered that his murder, which was carried out by professionals, followed the pattern of a series of attacks against journalists and other figures who had upset the authorities. The circumstances, the method of operation, the recurring use of cars with no licence plates and preceding death threats were similar in every case.
RSF thus claims to see a clear indication that government agents were behind the killing. "Mr Hydara's murder matches the pattern of many press freedom violations in recent years in Gambia and in all of these cases, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has been identified as the perpetrator or leading suspect," the groups claims.
By piecing together information in the accounts provided by different sources, the RSF activists also discovered that Mr Hydara had been under surveillance by the security services and was still being watched just minutes before he was murdered in his car, just a few hundred metres from a police barracks.
Baba Hydara and RSF now hope that their new campaign will put pressure on Gambian authorities to investigate the murder case. "We want to address ourselves directly to President Yaya Jammeh, who is the only person who can change things in The Gambia," the RSF statement said. "We want to tell him that we will continue to campaign alongside the Hydara family despite the unproductiveness of the investigation and the smear campaign against our correspondent in The Gambia."
They are still asking for help from radio stations to broadcast the message. "The murder of a journalist of such standing goes beyond the borders of The Gambia, contrary to what he would wish people to think," the group says. "This international solidarity will provide support to the family, friends and colleagues of Deyda Hydara, who for the past six months have been exposed to the indignities and bad faith of the government."
The family was especially shocked by a recent NIA report on its ongoing investigation into the murder case. The report was full of gratuitous detail about the editor's private life and absurd theories about the motives for the murder. In its conclusions, the report says that the most likely motive for the murder was either personal revenge, especially by a jealous husband, or a desire to cover up "financial misappropriation" by an associate.
The co-founder and editor of 'The Point', an independent newspaper that appears three times a week, and the correspondent of 'Agence France-Presse' (AFP) and RSF, Mr Hydara was gunned down behind the wheel of his car as he was driving two employees home late at night on 16 December. He was an outspoken critic of two laws curbing press freedom that were passed by the national assembly on the eve of his murder.
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