On December 16 of each year, the Gambia Press Union holds a public event in honour of its former president and prominent journalist Mr Deyda Hydara, who was assassinated by unknown assailants. The annual event gathers journalists, academia, civil society, diplomatic community, members of the public and the Hydara family to take a solemn look at Life and Times of Deyda in order keep alive his memory.
The forum also provides platform to renew our calls for the government to resolve his assassination; passionately discuss issues affecting the journalism industry and promote greater sense of purpose and unity among journalists. In 2015, the GPU officially launched Deyda Hydara Memorial Lecture Series. The maiden lecture was titled “The Role of the Media in the Independence Struggle of the Gambia,” delivered by Mr Halifa Sallah, a politician and sociologist.
Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004) was a co-founder and primary editor of the first Gambian tabloid newspaper, The Point, a leading independent Gambian newspaper. He was also a correspondent for both AFP News Agency and Reporters Without Borders for more than 30 years. Hydara also worked as a Radio presenter in the Gambia called Radio Syd during his early years as a freelance journalist.
On 16 December 1991, Hydara co-founded The Point along with Pap Saine and Babucarr Gaye; Saine and Hydara had been friends since childhood. Gaye resigned four months later, and Hydara and Saine ran the paper together for the next decade.
Hydara was an advocate of press freedom and a fierce critic of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who has been openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media. On 14 December 2004, the Gambia passed two new media laws. One, the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill 2004, allowed prison terms for defamation and sedition; the other, the Newspaper (Amendment) Bill 2004, requires newspaper and radio owners to purchase expensive operating licenses of half a million dalasis. Hydara announced his intent to challenge these laws, but on 16 December, was assassinated by an unknown gunman while driving home from work in Banjul. Two of his colleagues were also injured. His murder remains unsolved and the killers have not yet been brought to justice.
Deyda Hydara was survived by his wife and his five children. He was posthumously awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2005. In 2010, he won the Hero of African Journalism Award of The African Editors’ Forum in 2010, sharing the latter with disappeared journalist Ebrima Manneh
In June 2014, a decade after his assassination, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice found the Gambian government liable for failing to diligently investigate Deyda Hydara’s murder. The Nigerian law firm, Aluko & Oyebode, represented the family of Deyda Hydara and the Africa Regional Office of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ-Africa) in the law suit against the Gambian government. The government has so far failed to comply with the order of the Ecowas Court.