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Gambia6 January 2005

Who killed Deyda Hydara ?

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Reporters Without Borders is publishing a report of its investigation into the 16 December 2004 murder of its correspondent in The Gambia, Deyda Hydara. It calls on President Yahya Jammeh to appoint an independent commission of investigation after discovering that "most witnesses are afraid of being questioned by the authorities". The worldwide press freedom organisation has also asked for a personal meeting with the Gambian president to present its recommendations.

Killers used known modus operandi

The report published after an on-the-spot investigation by a Reporters Without Borders representative in Gambia and Senegal on 21-27 December 2004, reconstructs in detail the events of the night of the murder, on the 13th anniversary of the founding of the tri-weekly The Point, edited by Deyda Hydara. Based on previously unheard testimony it retraces events in the hour leading up to the ambush and concludes that the journalist was "murdered by well-organised professionals in a premeditated operation" which could well have been aimed at "the entire management of The Point".

Reporters Without Borders also makes a link between this operation against one of the country’s most respected journalists and several other acts of brutality that targeted the opposition press in 2003 and 2004, for which nobody was ever charged.

The organisation highlights common features to some of the attacks, in particular the use of cars with no number plates. The murder of Deyda Hydara also appears to be linked to a series of threats against the independent press in Gambia.

Reporters Without Borders publishes in full two anonymous letters sent to Gambian journalists in 2004. The first was signed by a disbanded group of self-proclaimed supporters of the president and the second, unsigned, contained threats of violence against journalists who challenged the government.

Reporters Without Borders also re-explores a murder attempt the previous year "in similar circumstances" against a lawyer, Ousman Sillah, who has since sought refuge in the United States. There is a body of suspicion, based on a very similar modus operandi, that shows a resemblance between these cases that have never been resolved by the police, said the organisation.

Reporters Without Borders also points to the atmosphere of "extreme tension" against which the murder was perpetrated against the co-founder and co-owner of The Point who was also correspondent in Gambia for Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Days before Hydara’s death, Gambia’s parliament passed two extremely repressive laws against the press. In its report, the organisation repeats an appeal to President Jammeh not to promulgate these two new laws and to agree a legislative framework for the press via a process of negotiation with the journalists’ union.

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