By Kebba Jeffang
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) and its stakeholders have commemorated the 11th anniversary of the killing of journalist Deyda Hydara by gunmen at a ceremony held at Tango conference hall in Kanifing on Sunday, December 20, 2015.
The event was symbolised with the launching of Deyda’s memorial lecture series and the lecture proper on the theme “Gambia at 50: The role of the media in the struggle for independence”.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Emil Touray, the President of GPU, said as journalists, they will continue to ask the question “who killed Deyda Hydara?” until his killers are known. He said it is the sole duty of the Government without involving a third party to investigate the murder of Deyda Hydara but that it is yet to do this. He said the government has the sole responsibility of protecting lives of people in the country.
Mr. Namori Trawally, Vice President of GPU, said Deyda was assassinated 11 years ago and yet no single person has been brought to book. He said the Government has the duty to protect its citizens and that it is a provision in the constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and the media. He called on the government to investigate and arraign his killers to face the full force of the law.
Mr. Sam Sarr, Managing Editor of Foroyaa newspaper, said the day is more than Deyda’s personality; it signifies the importance of freedom of expression. He said as people and as journalists they must live in a society that condones freedom of thoughts and debate for the truth to come out. He said that the laws that inhibit freedom of expression such as spreading false news, libel, sedition, etc., must be repealed.
Representing the United Democratic Party (UDP), Mr. Kemeseng Jammeh, the former minority leader of the National Assembly, asked “What is the essence of having something in the constitution and has no practical use?” He said the practice of journalism in the Gambia is terrible since journalists are subjected to arrest, harassment, disappearance and killing. He said this is why he is proud of media practitioners for continuing to provide information to the public despite all odds.
Mr. Pateh Baldeh, representing the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), expressed his concern regarding the security of journalists in the Gambia, asking “when would the question of who killed Deyda Hydara be answered?”
Mr. Musa Jobarteh, who gave a statement on behalf of the Initiative for Promotion of Democracy and Good Governance (IPDG), said “the day is to mourn the death of our beloved hero who stood for equal rights and justice throughout the world.” He said he is strongly calling on the leadership of the country to thoroughly investigate the matter and ensure that the culprits are punished.
In giving the memorial lecture, Mr. Halifa Sallah, Secretary General of the People’s Democratic Organisation Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), elaborated at length on the role of the media since the colonial period to date.
“What the murderers of Deyda failed to learn is that they can kill the Ambassadors of truth but they cannot kill the truth,” said Mr. Sallah.
He said Deyda is a supreme citizen of the Gambia like any other and he has been guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic a fundamental right to life.
“How many bullets entered in his body? Where is the autopsy report? No one knows,” said Mr. Sallah.
He urged the young journalists to stop the blame game and work to address issues as one.