Deyda Hydara

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Deyda Hydara
Born June 9, 1946 (1946-06-09) (age 68)
Died December 16, 2004 (2004-12-17) (aged 58)
Nationality Gambian
Occupation Editor of The Point
Known for Journalism, 2004 murder
Awards PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award (2005)
Hero of African Journalism Award (2010)

Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004) was a co-founder and primary editor of The Point, a major independent Gambian newspaper. He was also a correspondent for both AFP News Agency and Reporters Without Borders for more than 30 years. Hydara also worked as a Radio presenter in the Gambia called Radio Syd during his early years as a freelance journalist.

Journalism with The Point[edit]

On 16 December 1991, Hydara co-founded The Point along with Pap Saine and Babucarr Gaye; Saine and Hydara had been friends since childhood.[1] Gaye resigned four months later,[2] and Hydara and Saine ran the paper together for the next decade.[3]

Murder[edit]

Hydara was an advocate of press freedom and a fierce critic of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who has been openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media. On 14 December 2004, the Gambia passed two new media laws. One, the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill 2004, allowed prison terms for defamation and sedition; the other, the Newspaper (Amendment) Bill 2004, required newspaper owners to purchase expensive operating licenses, registering their homes as security. Hydara announced his intent to challenge these laws, but on 16 December, was assassinated by an unknown gunman while driving home from work in Banjul. Two of his colleagues were also injured. As of February 2012, his murder remains unsolved.[4] Although the killers have not yet been brought to justice, it is believed by some that the current government in the Republic of Gambia may have been responsible for this act.[5]

Deyda Hydara was survived by his wife and his five children.[6] He was posthumously awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2005[7] In 2010, he won the Hero of African Journalism Award of The African Editors’ Forum in 2010, sharing the latter with disappeared journalist Ebrima Manneh.[8]

Investigation controversy and defamation trial[edit]

In November 2008, the International Press Institute began a "Justice Denied" campaign pressing for investigations into violence against journalists in the Gambia, particularly the still-unsolved murder of Deyda Haydara. At a June 2009 press conference, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh disparaged questions about the Hydara investigation, saying "And up to now one of these stupid Web sites carries 'Who Killed Deyda Hydara'? Let them go and ask Deyda Hydara who killed him."[4] The Gambia Press Union then published a statement criticizing the lack of press freedom in Gambia, the stalled progress of the investigation, and the president's remarks, which the union called "inappropriate".[9] [10] The statement ran in The Point and a weekly newspaper, Foroyaa, on 11 June.[9]

The Gambian government responded by arresting six journalists: Pap Saine, News Editor Ebrima Sawaneh, and reporters Sarata Jabbi-Dibba and Pa Modou Faal of The Point; and editor Sam Saar and reporters Emil Touray of Foroyaa. The six were charged with sedition and criminal defamation of the president.[11] Jabbi-Dibba (the only woman) was held in Mile 2 prison, while Saine, Sawaneh, Faal, Saar, and Touray were held in Old Jeshwang prison. On 8 August, Jabbi-Dibba's seven-month-old baby was taken away.[10]

Numerous human rights NGOs protested the arrests and called the charges against the journalists to be dropped. Amnesty International designated the six as prisoners of conscience and demanded their immediate release.[12] The Committee to Protect Journalists also campaigned for Saine's release,[11] as did the World Organization Against Torture,[13] the International Federation for Human Rights,[14] International PEN,[15] the PEN American Center,[16] and Front Line Defenders.[17] Jammeh continued to denounce the journalists, however, making a state television appearance to say "So they think they can hide behind so-called press freedom and violate the law and get away with it? They got it wrong this time ... We are going to prosecute them to the letter."[11]

On 7 August 2009, the six were convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Mile 2 Prison, as well as a fine of 250,000 dalasi (£5,780) apiece.[18] However, Jammeh pardoned them in September, following a campaign of "domestic and international pressure".[11] The pardons were issued to coincide with Ramadan.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Valentin Ladstaetter and Laura Pannasch (21 September 2010). "Interview with IPI World Press Freedom Hero Pap Saine". International Press Institute. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "About the Point Newspaper". The Point. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Pap Saine: World Press Freedom Hero". International Press Institute. 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Deyda Hydara". International Press Institute. 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Anger mounts after detention of journalists IOL
  6. ^ "PEN/Barbara Goldsmith". PEN American Center. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  7. ^ "Saudi Writer, Gambian Journalist Win Freedom to Write Awards". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "Deyda Hydara, Chief Manneh get ‘Hero of African Journalism Award’". Jollof News. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Day of the Imprisoned Writer". PEN American Center. 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Reporters Without Borders Posts Statement that Led to Two-Year Jail Terms for Six Journalists". Reporters Without Borders. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Attacks on the Press 2009: Gambia". Committee to Protect Journalists. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  12. ^ "Gambia: Six Journalists Condemned to Two Years in Mile 2 Prison". Amnesty International. 7 August 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "The Gambia: Release of six trade union leaders and journalists". World Organization Against Torture. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "GMB 001 / 0609 / OBS 088.1 Sentencing / Arbitrary detention". International Federation for Human Rights. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Gambia: Six journalists jailed for criticising President". International PEN. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "PEN Appeal: Six Jouranlists [sic] in the Gambia". PEN American Center. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012. [dead link]
  17. ^ "The Gambia: Arrest of seven journalists for fighting impunity and expressing press freedom concerns". Front Line Defenders. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  18. ^ Chris Tryhorn (7 August 2009). "Six journalists jailed in Gambia". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2012.