The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has learnt with mixed feelings of shock and relief about the killers of journalist Deyda Hydara, a founder and former president of the GPU.
This Monday, 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.
Mr. Hydara was a prominent Gambian journalist and a strong advocate for press freedom. He 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 have refused to properly investigate. Instead, the government ignored and censored calls – in some instances blocked efforts – to investigate the killing of the veteran journalist.
Sheriff Bojang Jr, 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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) is actively engaged with the TRRC process and is closely monitoring developments.
According to its secretary general, Saikou Jammeh, the Union encourages the Commission to leave no stone unturned in establishing the truth and seeking justice for wide of crimes committed against journalists during the 22-year reign of Yahya Jammeh.
The Union reminds The Gambia Government of its obligation to pursue justice and bring to book every perpetrator, including exiled ex-president Yahya Jammeh, for the killing of Deyda and all other crimes against journalists of which his government perpetrated or failed in its duty to investigate.
The Union wishes to express sincere thanks and appreciation to individuals and partner organisations that have supported in particular the family of Mr Hydara and the freedom and development of the media during those difficult times. The Union also stands by Mr. Hydara’s family and offers its support and solidarity especially during these trying times.