CONCEPT NOTE

Friday, December 15, 2017

Symposium to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the assassination of the late Deyda Hydara and other martyrs of press freedom in The Gambia

Introduction:

On 16 December 2004, a former president and one of the founding fathers of the Gambia Press Union was assassinated cold blooded.  Deyda Hydara, who was the co-founder and editor of The Point newspaper, was killed by unknown gunmen in a drive by shooting in Kanifing, while on the wheel of his car heading home from work.  To date, his killers remain largely unknown.

Every year, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) celebrates the anniversary to bring to life his legacy in the field of journalism, and to renew call for investigation into his death. 

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”.

This year, the GPU in collaboration with the ministries of justice, and information communication infrastructure, The Point, the Hydara family and the Victims’ Centre, will hold a symposium to commemorate not only Deyda but also all those who lost their lives or were subjected to other forms of rights violations in the line of their journalism duty.

The theme for the event is ‘Digital migration and how it affects media development and press freedom’.

Background:

One of the hallmarks of the 22 years government of Yahya Jammeh, which ended in December 2016, was torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention, and killing of journalists and censorship of the media and press freedom activities.  Impunity for crimes committed against journalists and the media was the norm.

As a result a lot of journalists were forced to go into exile for fear of their lives in The Gambia.  Many of other those who stayed paid a heavy price.  One of those who decided to stay to weather the storm but eventually paid the ultimate price was Deyda Hydara, an advocate of press freedom and a fierce critic of the government of then President Yahya Jammeh, who was openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media.

He was a co-founder and primary editor of the first Gambian tabloid newspaper, The Point, a leading independent newspaper.  He was also a correspondent for both AFP news agency and Reporters Without Borders for more than 30 years.

Another one who disappeared and apparently died in state custody was Chief Ebrima Manneh, the lead investigative journalist for the Daily Observer newspaper.  He was picked up at his work place in December 2006 and subsequently disappeared with little trace.

Like Chief Manneh, Musa Saidykhan was also arrested and detained by the notorious National Intelligence Agency, now renamed State Intelligence Service, in 2006.  Then the editor-in-chief of the defunct Independent newspaper, he was eventually released after he had been subjected to brutal torture. 

A lot of other journalists were subjected to one form of torture or the other during the former government in spite of the fact that the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, including that of the media.

Against this background, the GPU in collaboration with partners would commemorate all the victims of journalism and press freedom on 16 December, a day that Deyda Hydara was killed. 

The symbolic day would be used as a platform to pay solemn tribute to journalists who have lost their lives or were subjected to other forms of rights violations in the course of their journalism duties and also to advance the fundamental principles of press freedom.

Aims and objectives:

The aims and objectives of the symposium include:

•  Renewing calls for The Gambia government to investigate and bring to book the killers and torturers of Deyda Hydara as well as all those who were arbitrarily subjected to cruel treatments for their journalism work;

• Strengthening the advocacy for the promotion of inclusive and sustainable development, and democracy and press freedom;

• Providing a platform to discuss issues affecting the journalism industry in this changing circumstance and promote greater sense of purpose among journalists.

Format / planned activities

There will be a paper presentation on the theme which will be followed by an open-floor discussion moderated by the MC.  The participants will be given the floor for interactive discussion with the resources person.

Participants:

About 200 participants are expected, including government officials, the Hydara family, journalists, university students, civil society, diplomatic and development community, as well as individuals interested in the freedom and development of the Gambian media and democracy.

Venue:

University of The Gambia’s Auditorium along MDI Road, Kanifing.