- A Gambian editor and the correspondent of the French news agency AFP and of the media watchdogs RSF has been gunned down outside his offices in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia. This was shortly after RSF has complained over increased repression of the media by the government of The Gambia.
The Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today voiced its "outrage and deep sadness" over the murder of its correspondent in The Gambia. On the night of 16 to 17 December, Deyda Hydara was shot three times in the head as he left his Banjul office. "Deyda Hydara's death is a tragedy that profoundly distresses all of our staff," the group said. "We will go to Banjul as soon as possible to help his family and demand a serious investigation by authorities."
Mr Hydara, aged 58, was the managing editor and co-owner of the private weekly 'The Point', and had been the local correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) since 1974. Fluent in French, he was also one of RSF's longest-serving correspondents in Africa, putting his experience and authority at the service of press freedom since 1994. His dedication and professionalism had been of great help to his fellow journalists in The Gambia for years. He was married and the father of four children.
According to RSF, Mr Hydara was shot by one or several persons as he left his office shortly after midnight on the night of 16 to 17 December. Two of his newspaper's employees were injured in the shooting. Police said they were investigating the attack.
The killing comes at moment of tension between authorities and the independent press. On 13 December, the National Assembly passed a law that makes all press offences punishable by imprisonment. Another newly adopted law will increase the cost of an operating licence for newspaper owners fivefold.
In a 16 December letter to Gambian Dictator Yayah Jammeh, RSF had urged him "to reconsider the National Assembly's decisions and to not sign either of these pieces of legislation into law, so that Gambian journalists are able to work in an untroubled and professional climate."
RSF did not comment whether the group believed there was any connection between its protests against the new draconic criminal law and the assassination of Mr Hydara. The Ghana-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) today however noted it was to investigate all details of this murder.
The killing of the Gambian editor and correspondent caused outrage all over the world this evening. The International PEN today said it was "deeply disturbed" by the murder. The group called upon Gambian authorities to "ensure that the police investigation into the killing of Deyda Hydara be exhaustive, and that whoever is found responsible be brought to justice."
Equally, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged a full investigation into his death. Demba Ali Diao, the head of the IFJ-affiliated Gambia Press Union noted that Mr Hydara has been very critical of the government and opposed repressive laws.
Gambian journalists recently campaigned successfully against the introduction of a media commission, which was seen as a mechanism for thought control, and which was finally dissolved on 13 December. The new legislation runs counter to that success and bodes ill for the practice of journalism in the country. All media freedom groups today called for the quashing of this legislation following the death of Mr Hydara.
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