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Editor's killers still at large

afrol News, 17 December - It was exactly three years yesterday since the callous and cowardly killing of a leading Gambian newspaper editor and rights activists took place, yet no serious investigations were conducted by the government.

Hydara, 58, was shot dead at the wheel of his car on 16 December 2004 as he drove home his staff at night. The day meant two things for Hydara: the birthday of his wife, Maria and the 13th anniversary of the founding of a paper [The Point] he had co-founded with a colleague, Pap Saine.

The gruesome murder had attracted swift reaction from both home and abroad, with the private local media observing a week's blackout in protest.

The continuous steam around the issue prompted the government to launch a so-called investigation into the high-profile assassination.

Shockingly, it issued a 21-page report that hauled insults at Hydara, accusing him of being a "serial womaniser" and as such he could have been killed as a result of that. The fact that the report failed to disclose who killed Hydara, why or how, meant its purpose was defeated. It was therefore shamed and damned all over the world.

Since then, The Gambia government would not investigate the issue and anybody who raised the issue becomes a potential target of state harassment as if the killed editor's spirits are hunting them. In 2005, foreign delegates to the international conference on the slain editor's one year anniversary were forbidden from visiting the sight where he was killed.

Hydara's third anniversary commemoration was marked by a recitation of Holy Qur'an by friends, colleagues and family members at his residence in Bakau, about 10 km from Banjul to seek divine intervention for progress on the missing justice.

The group visited his tomb and the spot where he was killed.

Media rights watchdogs still press the need to sustain pressure on the Jammeh regime to set up an independent body to investigate the unexplained murder.

The local press union, Gambia Press Union (GPU) is still reeling with anger over the government's failure to investigate and arrest, let alone prosecute suspects.

"They probably roam our streets freely lurking behind dark shadows. If it could happen to Deyda Hydara, it could happen to anyone of us," the GPU said, expressing utmost disappointment that the state failed to woefully protect the life of a clean and civilised citizen or investigate his killing.

The union also pinned down the government for maintaining a culture of ignoring numerous attacks on journalists and their institutions.

"Regrettably, we are obliged to draw the attention of The Gambia government to the fact that many of our colleagues have lost faith and confidence in the ability of security forces and the government to put an end to impunity. We have observed a similar trend in our society at large. Such a scenario is inimical to peace and security and poses a threat to media practitioners."

Hydara was gone but his many great legacies remained behind. One of them was to champion the cause of humanity as well as transformed the lives of so many people, especially journalists. He will always be remembered as courageous, steadfast and committed journalist who sought for and believed in truth and justice.

"Today, Deyda Hydara stands taller than he was during his lifetime; he towers like a giant over the heads of his brutal murderers and he continues to strike at the root of the evil that took his life," the local union said.

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