The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), a regional network of freedom of expression organizations, has called on African and world leaders to take immediate steps to bring former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh to justice for the 2004 killing of Mr. Deyda Hydara, a prominent Gambian journalist and editor.
AFEX made the call following the testimony of Lieutenant Malick Jatta before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) at a public hearing in Banjul on July 22, 2019, during which he gave a detailed account of how Mr. Hydara was murdered and revealed that he and two other military officers, Alieu Jeng and Sana Manjang, were part of the hit squad that shot and killed Mr. Hydara on December 16, 2004 on the orders of then President Jammeh.
Mr. Hydara, a former President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), was co-founder and editor of The Point, an independent ewspaper.
Lt. Jatta told the Commission that the journalist was murdered on the direct orders of President Jammeh in what was dubbed “Operation Magic Pen”. He said the late Captain Tumbul Tamba, who commanded the hit squad, was communicating with then President Jammeh on the phone during the operation, and was heard saying to him “Yes Sir, Your Excellency”. Lt. Jatta added that the commanding officer later gave him an envelope containing dollars, which he said was a “sign of appreciation from the big man”.
AFEX noted that this is the first time that there has been any direct information on the circumstances leading to the death of Mr. Hydara in the 15 years since the mysterious killing of the prominent Gambian journalist in 2004.
The Network called on regional leaders within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) to work with relevant United Nations bodies and mechanisms to launch an independent international investigation into the killing of Mr. Hydara to identify all those involved in the heinous crimes and the roles that each of them played and ensure that they are brought to justice.
Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Chair of the Steering Committee of AFEX, said: “In the light of ongoing efforts at the regional and international levels to promote the safety of journalists and combat impunity for those who attack them, any failure on the part of regional and world leaders to take decisive action to ensure accountability for the murder of Deyda Hydara would make a mockery of those efforts and embolden those attack and kill journalists simply for performing their professional duties on behalf of the society.”
AFEX called on the government of The Gambia to refrain from granting any amnesty or immunity to any of those implicated in the killing of Mr. Hydara, including former President Jammeh.
It also called on regional and international bodies, particularly ECOWAS and the AU, to put pressure on the government of Equatorial Guinea to immediately extradite former President Jammeh to The Gambia as a first step in bringing him to justice.
AFEX solicited the support of the global media and freedom of expression communities, urging them to join it in waging a sustained campaign for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists, using as linchpin the Deyda Hydara case and the recent incident concerning Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post newspaper in the United States, and Editor-in-Chief of Al-Arab News Channel, who was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018 by agents of the Saudi government.