Reporters Without Borders voiced amazement today that Pap Saine, the co-owner of The Point newspaper and partner of murdered journalist Deyda Hydara, was interrogated yesterday at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul about the newspaper’s management and tax situation.
"Deyda Hydara’s killers are still at large, but the Gambian intelligence services find nothing better to do than treat his partner with suspicion," the press freedom organization said.
"It is not just a waste of time, it is also shameful to harass The Point’s co-owner," Reporters Without Borders continued. "We find this behaviour all the more astounding as it is not the first time the security forces have rummaged through the drawers of our murdered correspondent’s newspaper. If they wanted to create a diversion or try to discourage Pap Saine and push him into closing The Point, this would be the way to go about it."
NIA agents went to the offices of The Point at midday yesterday to question Saine, but he was not there. After being told of their visit, Saine went to NIA headquarters shortly after 2 p.m. and was interrogated for about an hour by three agents. They asked him to produce various administrative documents, including the newspaper’s 1991 publishing licence, the original of his partnership agreement with Hydara’s wife and his tax statements.
They also asked him if he had any differences with Hydara, with he vigorously denied. The NIA agents demanded that he come back today with the administrative documents and, among other demands, they also told him to make sure all of the company’s pending taxes were paid by the end of March.
The police had summoned Saine in similar fashion in mid-January and interrogated him for an entire morning about the management of The Point, insisting that he produce bank statements. They had said at the time they were investigating the possibility that Hydara was murdered at the behest of a Nigerian businessman who was the newspaper’s supplier and was supposed to have had a grudge against Hydara. This theory was shown to be absurd when Saine proved to them the supplier was in fact a Gambian.
Hydara was shot dead at the wheel of his car on the night of 16 December 2004 as he was driving two of the newspaper’s employees home. He was the co-founder and co-editor of The Point, a newspaper that appears three times a week. He was also the correspondent of Agence France-Presse and Reporters Without Borders and one of the most outspoken critics of two draconian press laws that were passed by the Gambian parliament on the eve of his murder.