Deyda Hydara was a prominent Gambian journalist and a strong advocate for press freedom. He was a correspondent for AFP news agency and Journalists Without Borders (RSF). He was also a founder and former president of the Gambian Press Union.
Deyda was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on the night of December 16, 2004. It was the 13th anniversary of The Point, a leading national newspaper he co-established. He was driving home two of his staff Ida Jagne, a typist, and Niansarang Jobe, a layout editor, who also sustained gunshot wounds on her leg and was briefly admitted for medical treatment.
The Jammeh administration had repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing of Deyda. Yet, despite overwhelming evidence pointing to their involvement, they refused to properly investigate. Instead, the government ignored and censored calls – in some instances blocked efforts – to investigate the killing of the veteran journalist.
However, on Monday July 22, 2019, Malick Jatta, a military personnel and a member of the hit-squad of then-president, Yahya Jammeh, told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that he participated in the killing of Mr. Hydara.
He confirmed that Yahya Jammeh ordered the assassination in an operation meant to get rid of the ‘magic pen’ (a codename referring to Mr. Hydara). Jatta gave details of how the killing was planned and executed. He also told the commission how he and his colleagues who took part in the operation were given envelopes containing cash as a “sign of appreciation from the big man”, a reference to Jammeh.
Pap Babucarr Saine, Hydara’s colleague and managing editor of The Point, told the truth commission earlier that Hydara was killed for writing about the rampant corruption in The Gambia under Jammeh. “He was always sensitising the populace on the corrupt practices of the regime as well as the rights violations that were taking place at the time.”
Mr. Sheriff Bojang Jr., the president of the GPU, said: “The revelations made by Jatta about the circumstances of the killing of Deyda Hydara confirm the long, widely held accusation that the government of Yahya Jammeh perpetrated the heinous crime.” He continued, “It is unfortunate that it has taken this long, 15 years, for us to know the killers of Deyda. This is painfully depressing but also a relief as the family and his colleagues deserve to know the truth and to pursue justice.”
Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and ruled for more than 22 years, until he was deposed in 2017. His refusal to leave power after losing a presidential election sparked a regional crisis, which ended when Jammeh agreed to live in exile in Equatorial Guinea.
Supported by the United Nations, The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, was set up in October to investigate alleged abuses under his 22-year rule.