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RSF criticises continuing impunity in Gambia

afrol News, 16 December - Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the continuing impunity on journalists by the Gambian government despite its failure to pin down killers of a well re-knowned journalist Deyda Hydara and co-founder of the privately-owned daily "The Point", four years ago.

Mr Hydara, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen traveling in a taxi as he was driving his car in an outlying district of the capital Banjul on 16 December 2004.

Journalist organisation said The Gambian authorities had orchestrated the assassination of a veteran journalist Mr Hydara to subject Gambians to fear of the presidents guards.

"Only a campaign by those who do not live with this fear can make this plan fail," the organisation added.

RSF said there were several reasons for believing that Mr Hydara was targeted to silence fierce criticism regularly leveled against the government by his journalistic writings to both local and international media.

"The police investigation promised by the Gambian authorities got nowhere. The only official report, sent to the press by the Gambian intelligence services in 2005, was "confidential", outlining several leads, most of them absurd, which were supposedly intended to shed light on the circumstances of the killings," said the organisation.

The Gambian press, reduced to a few privately-owned newspapers under close government scrutiny is trying to survive in a climate in which the least incident is severely punished.

Arbitrary arrest, threats and police brutality are now commonplace in a country ruled by a head of state who in several interviews has expressed his contempt and distrust for the media.

Meanwhile, a 2009 calendar commemorating Mr Deyda Hydara's struggle for press freedom and freedom of expression will be released early next year. The theme of the calendar is "Fight Against Impunity".

A joint initiative of the Deyda Hydara Trust (DHT) and the International Federation of Journalists Africa Office (IFJ), the 2009 Deyda Hydara calendar is conceived as an advocacy tool for the campaign against impunity across Africa. The calendar is enriched with memorable Deydaian quotes and reports said it will be distributed in the whole of African continent.

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