Gambia: Former President Must Stand Trial for Journalist's Murder

Photo: Cia Pak/UN
Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia.
press release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, now living in exile in Equatorial Guinea, to be extradited back to Gambia to stand trial for the 2004 murder of Deyda Hydara, a newspaper editor who was the dean of Gambia's journalists and RSF's correspondent.

RSF issued the call after an army officer confessed on July 22nd to Gambia's Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that he carried out Hydara's murder and said it was ordered by President Jammeh.

Detained since 8 February 2017, two weeks after Jammeh's removal from office and departure into exile, Lt. Malick Jatta told the commission how he and two other military officers - who, like him, were members of a special unit - shot Hydara in his car on the night of 16 December 2004.

"We opened fire, myself, Alieu Jen and Sana Manjang," Jatta said, naming the two other officers.

"Our correspondent's murder 15 years ago caused our staff a great deal of distress," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "Fifteen years later, we continue to demand justice. The investigation into this shocking crime must be relaunched and, given the gravity of the accusations against him, Yahya Jammeh must be extradited from Equatorial Guinea. The crimes against journalists that took place during his 22 years in power must not remain unpunished."

Aged 58 and the father of four children, Hydara was co-founder and editor of the newspaper The Point, writing a widely-read column entitled "Good morning Mr. President," in which he commented on Gambia's politics and government. He was also the Gambia correspondent of both Agence France-Presse and RSF.

Jammeh's 22 years as president were marked by constant persecution of the media. As well as Hydara's murder, he was reportedly implicated in the deaths of two other journalists, Chief Ebrima Manneh and Omar Barrow, and in many cases of censorship and imprisonment of journalists.

Under Adama Barrow, who replaced Jammeh as president in January 2017, Gambia rose 30 places in a single year in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index to be ranked 92nd out of 180 countries.

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