By Madi M.K.Ceesay
Editor/Publisher Daily News,
2006 Winner of (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award
19 December 2014
The Chair of the occasion
GPU Executive director,
Members of the media,
All other protocols observed
It is tough for me to speak on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the brutal and mysterious killing of our fallen colleague and friend late Deyda Hydara of the Point Newspaper, which killing is still unresolved. I wish we the journalists of the Gambia had no course for such an occasion.
May the departed soul rest in perfect peace in Allah’s highest Janna.
I must first register my utter disappointment at the rate the investigations into his murder is going. Despite several calls on the government of the Gambia to re-open investigations in this unresolved murder case; here are we today after 10 years marking the day.
10 years is too long for friends, colleagues, family members and loved ones to wait to see justice prevail. It is said justice delayed is justice denied; really justice is denied in our colleague’s case.
It’s not fair for him as a person and to all of us as colleagues; family members and friends to keep us these 10 long years; it’s just too hard and frustrating for anyone waiting to see justice happen this long. After registering my disappointment may I now look at my topic, which is?
‘The Ramifications of the Killing of Deyda Hydara on Media Development in The Gambia’
But before I go proper into my discussions on the topic given to me’ let me tell those who don’t know him and may want to know, Deyda who he is?
Deyda HYDARA (1954 – 2004), was the editor-in-chief and co-owner of the independent newspaper The Point, correspondent for Agence France Presse (AFP) and Reporters without Borders (RSF). He is a husband and father. He was shot dead in his car by unidentified individuals while returning from work, on 16 December 2004.
The shooting occurred three days after the enactment of a controversial law to increase the bond executed for the registration for media outlets and prison sentences for journalists convicted of defamation or sedition. Deyda HYDARA had taken a strong stance against the laws. These laws have created a climate of fear and set the whole media development in this country aback. Journalists, human rights defenders and citizens practise self-censorship or flee the country.
What are the ramifications of the killing of such a man on media development in our dear mother land The Gambia?
Ramification means: consequences, complications results, difficulties, implications, effects, and upshots.
The killing did change the media scene of the country, whether negatively or positively; but in my view it changed it negatively.
Prior to his killing media organizations and journalists in this country were going through an onslaught. The days were characterized by a series of arson attacks, and physical confrontations of media practitioners by certain hooligans (LAWBREAKERS, GANGSTERS, CRIMINALS, THUGS, and HOODLUMS), who take the law in their hands; many, if not all of those hooligans walked away scot free.
These were times when the defunct Independent newspaper got its printing press burnt down; and subsequently shut down without a court order, the then Citizen FM and Citizen Newspaper of late Baboucarr Gaye another fallen media guru got his two media houses closed down by the power that be without a court order, the then Radio One FM has its premises burnt down and some members of staff also had their homes burnt down, also it was at the same time when the then BBC correspondent Ebrima Sillhah had his home burnt down and in all these cases not a single one of them was mentioned in any court of law here in the Gambia.
The above mentioned cases are only a few among the lot; all of which cannot be listed in this deliberation.
Many journalists faced prosecutions and in many of such cases they were sentenced to heavy fines for what is called SEDITION or DEFAMATION ranging from D50, 000 minimum to D260, 000.
The media panorama in the country before the murder of Deyda Hydara was already poor in terms of its laws.
We had the following ACT put in place:
- The Newspaper (Amendment) Act (2004)
- The Criminal Code (Amendment) Act (2004)
- The Criminal Code (Amendment) Act (2005) and
- The Information and Communication (Amendment) Act (2013) which came 9 years after Hydara‘s killing.
What are some of the ramifications of such on media development on our dear country if I may ask? The answer simply is that the ramifications are many; and below are just a few.
- It creates a hostile environment for the journalists, and subsequently many engage in self-censorship. These give very little room for media development when it comes to investigative journalism for the fear of persecution and possible imprisonment.
- The limitations of media outlets to be able to give divergent views as no two media outlets are the same in terms of content.
- Imposition of self-exile; how many of our journalists are in Europe, America, Germany or in other parts of Africa and cannot come home for fear of their lives?
- Forced exiles
- Possible brain drain
- Vacuum of news reporting in the electronic media (Our electronic FMs)
- The GPU spend much time and resources on the defence of its members ( fighting some of the draconian laws)
The ramification of the murder of a veteran journalist like Deyda Hydara also sends very negative signals to young and new entrants into the media field.
Today many young ones who want to take up journalism as a profession are discouraged by either their friends or parents. This is so because the arrests of many journalists give new entrants the impression that it’s risky to be a journalist. Is that not anti-media development for our country?
“Those who are threatened by information believe that silencing journalists will prevent the global community from knowing what’s happening inside a given country,” Mohamed Keita CPJ
My colleagues and friends of the media fraternity, as the year is closing to an end these are the statistics some of the harassment meted out to us for no crime but Informing, Educating and Entertaining the general public.
Up to Yesterday December 18 2014
56 Journalist killed, 220 imprisoned, 456 Exiled from (2008) and 1096 killed since 1992 among which our own Deyda is one.
404 Journalists Forced into Exile Since 2009 (many of Gambian journalists are among this update). Source: www.cpj.org
Unfortunately as I conclude this discussion our country The Gambia is rated by Freedom House an international Media organization as a place where the press is NOT FREE, while Cape Verde rated as FREE; Mali and Senegal are rated as PARTLY FREE. Source: www.fredomhouse.org.
Thanks you all