Gambia: Dedya Hydara's Death - a Loss to the Media Fraternity

Deyda Hydara
18 December 2017

The year 2003 saw me joining the media fraternity by writing for "The Independent" newspaper. I was covering court cases. I loved the way Abdoulie Sey, who was the editor-in-chief of the paper, was editing my stories.

As a beginner, I learnt a lot from my edited stories because I used to read them after publication. I really enjoyed working with the staff because I was treated like a member of their families. In fact, at "The Independent" company, we were treated equally. There was love and mutual understanding within the staff.

Abdoulie Sey, Alagie Yerro Jallow, Baba Galleh Jallow, Sanna Camara, Alieu Darboe, Lamin Njie, Juldeh Sowe, Ejatou Jallow, (deceased), Pa Modou Secka, Buya Jammeh, Ahmed Carayol, Sainabou Kujabi, Alimatou Jarra, Habib Ceesay (deceased), Seedy Bojang etc. formed "The Independent" team.

I used to enjoy Baba Galleh Jallow's short stories. One had to be able to read between the lines to understand them. Seedy Bojang used to write interesting articles which I really enjoyed.

Because of Sanna Camara's good investigative stories, I would crack a joke with him by telling him that he would lead and others follow. We would laugh over it.

The way Lamin Njie was running his pen was exceptional. Alieu Darboe ran him a close second. Ejatou's children's column always caught my attention.

Buya Jammeh, my friend, was very good at writing court stories. We used to go to Kanifing Magistrates' Court to cover court cases. He once wrote a story about the magistrates at the Kanifing Magistrates' Court who were lambasted by litigants.

When I told Buya that I enjoyed reading his story, he said to me: "The magistrates have to do their work." You would see Buya smiling, confident of himself. Oh dear. Those days have gone.

As I was covering court cases at the Kanifing Magistrates' Court, I came across Modou Sanyang, Sarata Jabbi and Bakary Samateh, all of "The Point" newspaper. They were later joined by Modou Kanteh as a court reporter.

We used to exchange ideas after covering court cases. We would time and again go through each other's note book to see if we had not missed anything.

We used to work together as brothers and sister, although we were writing for different newspapers. There was cooperation and we were a nice team.

On the 17 December, 2004, as we were covering court cases at the Kanifing Magistrates' Court, I saw Modou Sanyang, Bakary Samateh and Sarata Jabbi walking out of the courtroom with sad faces. They did not speak to me. I wondered what went wrong.

Modou Sanyang and the others had left. My friend prosecutor Mballow said to me:" Have you heard what happened, Dawda?"

"No," I replied.

"Dedya Hydara has been killed," he told me. I could not believe my ears.

I was really taken by surprise. I wondered what he had done to be killed like that.

"Dawda, it is better to leave this job," my friend Mballow advised me.

Dedya Hydara's death is really a loss to the media fraternity. I told Mballow that I would not stop writing as a journalist. I told him that no amount of threat would stop me from writing.

I have never worked with Dedya Hydara, but a lot of people had testified that he was a humble and kind man. Some of his staff had described him as an educator and humanitarian.

I know for sure that he used to fight for press freedom. In fact, I read one of his articles published on the 15 December, 2004, in which he defended the freedom of the press. He mentioned the obnoxious laws that have deterred the progress of journalists.

And the following day, 16 December, 2004, he was murdered.

According to investigations, the late Tumbul Danso, late Manlafi Corr, Sanna Manjang and Kawsu Camara were among those who killed Dedya. But why was he murdered?

Did he commit any offence by exercising his right to freedom of expression? He was professionally contributing his quota to the development of the country. He did not deserve the way he was murdered.

In his tribute to Dedya Hydara, Alagi Yorro Jallow wrote: "Those who brutally and mysteriously killed Dedya Hydara, the brave and encyclopedic Gambian journalist, cannot obviously succeed in wiping out his name."

This is what Baba Galleh Jallow said in his article on Dedya Hydara : "The ignorant mind that chooses to remain ignorant is always hostile to the enlightened mind that would lift it out of ignorance."

If Sanna Manjang and Kawsu Camara alias Bombardier were brave enough to kill Dedya, they should have been brave enough to stay here and face justice, but instead they ran away. They are cowards and they will die many times before their death.

Kawsu Camara has penchant for engaging in heinous activities. According to reliable sources, he was involved in the burning of "The Independent" newspaper printing machine. He got burnt and was taken to Mile 7 for treatment, and later moved to Brikama secretly.

If Sanna Manjang and Kawsu Camara felt that they were offended by Dedya by writing his articles, which was not the case, they should have defended themselves by using the pen. The only language they understand is to kill. They have nothing in their heads to give back to society.

They can run but they cannot hide. The long arm of the law will one day catch up with them. There is no doubt about that.

While my colleagues were celebrating the 13th anniversary of Dedya's death, I was busy writing this article but my soul was with them. The struggle for freedom of expression and press freedom will continue. This is our right and it is sacrosanct. The killing of Dedya will not stop us from writing, and those who think that this will stop us from writing are wallowing in troubled waters.

Ndey Tapha Sosseh, former GPU president, said in an interview: "The incident, if anything, strengthened my resolve to stand up against injustice. For the death of Dedya was not only an injustice to his person, but to his family and the media fraternity as a whole."

Marie-Pierre Hydara, Dedya's daughter, has this to say on her father's death: "Whatever purpose Dedya's killing was for, it has failed flat. Because if it was meant to silence the press, some are fighting tooth and nail to get us the justice we or he deserves."

The former government promised to investigate into Dedya's death, but instead the former president ridiculed him.

Sanna Manjang and Kawsu Camara should not enjoy any impunity.

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