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Gambia16 May 2005

Deyda Hydara : the murder of a journalist under surveillance

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In its second report on the murder of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara, released today, Reporters Without Borders has contributed an important new element to the investigation, namely that Hydara was being watched by the intelligence services until a few minutes before he was shot dead on 16 December 2004 in Banjul.

Five months to the day after the deadly ambush, Reporters Without Borders again urged President Yahya Jammeh to give the police the means to carry out a credible investigation. The report’s conclusions call on Jammeh to "officially request the intervention of a neutral, independent and professional third party" and suggest that he should "turn to the British or US authorities for police assistance."

The co-founder and editor of the independent newspaper The Point and correspondent of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reporters Without Borders, Hydara was gunned down behind the wheel of his car as he was driving two employees home late at night.

As it issued its report, entitled "Murder of a journalist under surveillance," Reporters Without Borders argued that his death is not just a Gambian issue since it sent a terrifying signal to all African journalists, who immediately reacted by expressing their shock and solidarity.

"For this reason, we do not understand why the African Union - which made Banjul the headquarters of its African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) - has still not condemned the murder of Gambia’s leading journalist and did not even mention him in the final statement of its 37th ordinary session on 11 May," the organization said.

It added: "The ACHPR has thereby demonstrated that it is either subject to unacceptable influence from the host government or extremely remote from the concerns of the African peoples."

On the basis of statements received from witnesses during its fact-finding visit to Banjul and Dakar from 25 April to 4 May, Reporters Without Borders concluded that: "Hydara was subjected to harassment and surveillance by the Gambian intelligence services."

The report also found that: "The harsh new press legislation and the strategic question of the ailing groundnut sector were the dominant themes of his final articles. He was murdered by professionals in a premeditated ambush in which, for still unexplained reasons, the security forces present in the area failed in their duty to protect and intervene."

This second fact-finding mission was prompted by the fact that the official investigation, conducted initially by the police and then by the intelligence services, has yielded no results and is "trapped in its own absurd hypotheses." Reporters Without Borders said it was amazed that "investigators have not considered the possibility that the murder was politically-motivated, although it seems the most probable hypothesis."

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