FEATURE: Deyda Hydara: A martyr

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

I came across Deyda Hydara when I was working for “The Independent” newspaper. He walked into the office and greeted us. This was the first time I saw him in person. He was humble and that personality was in him. I did not know what his mission to the office was. He later came out with that lovely smile on his face. I was really impressed just looking at his character.

A friend of mine one day told me: “Have you heard what happened, Dawda?”

“No,” I replied.

“Deyda Hydara has been killed,” he told me. I could not believe me ears. I was taken by surprise. I wondered what he had done to be killed like that. Why do people enjoy taking the lives of their fellow human beings? What are they going to gain?

I have never worked with Deyda Hydara, but a lot of people had testified that he was generous and kind.  He was described as an educator and a humanitarian. I know for sure that Deyda used to fight for press freedom.

In fact I read one of his articles published in “The Point” newspaper on the 15th December, 2004, in which he defended the freedom of the press. He mentioned the obnoxious media laws that have deterred the progress of journalists. And the following day 16th December, 2004, he was murdered. 

How wicked his murderers are! They had deprived Deyda’s children of their father. Do they know what it means when you lose a loving father? Let them put themselves in the position of Dedya’s family. How would they feel?

What heartless people do we have in our society? They are people whose task is to mar.

Deyda Hydara was a property of God and he had been destroyed by these heartless murderers. Let them know that they have offended God and He will also one day destroy them. There is no doubt about that because truth always triumphs in the end. It is just a matter of time, and the long arm of the law will catch up with them.

The media community on the 20th December, 2004, made a press release on the murder of Deyda Hydara, and it reads: “Two days ago, 16th December, 2004, to be precise, the co-proprietor and Managing Editor of The Point Newspaper hosted a reception to commemorate the 13th anniversary of The Point Newspaper. He did not know that a murderer was waiting in the dark to mar the spirit of the anniversary by drowning him in a pool of blood. What type of person could have the callous heart to watch people having happy moments with friends and loved ones, follow them in the dark and then aim the barrel of a gun and shoot one’s fellow human being to death? The trigger was pulled not once but a number of times to ensure that there was instant death. This is the height of contempt. To negate the life of a human being is the grossest and most repulsive violation of human rights. What right does a person have to separate a husband from his wife, a father from his children, a friend from his loved ones, a colleague from his professional community by sheer brutality and malice? The arson attacks on the members of the press were preludes of this vile murder of an illustrious member of the media community. The failure to awaken public contempt and denunciation of such acts of brutality has opened a window of opportunity for those with contempt to unleash their hatred on the members of the media community. They consider us as safe targets for their barbarous acts. The media publishes what the Imams, priests, civic educationists, critiques and interest groups and concerned individuals say. Why should the media practitioners be held accountable for giving the people the avenue to exercise their freedom of expression? It is The Gambian constitution which says under section 25 that, ‘Every person shall have the right to (a) freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media.’ Section 207 indicates that, ‘The freedom and independence of the press and other information media are hereby guaranteed.’ How can such guarantee be real when arsonists and murderers roam about freely to carry out their contemptuous atrocities against the media community? Since all avenues have been tapped to ensure the protection of members of the media fraternity without success, it is clear to us that we must draw public attention to our plight and invite their massive condemnation of all the aggressive actions against journalists so that through such action, intense public revulsion and official sensibilities can be raised to bring the perpetrators of arson and murder to book and deter others with such tendencies. In order to promote this public outcry against arson and murder, all the members of the media community met on 17th December, 2004, to agree to suspend publication for the time being in order to educate people on the significance of information. We also intend to hold a procession to deliver the statement to the Secretary of State for Interior to ask for the speedy investigation of all attacks against media practitioners and measures to protect their lives and properties. The procession will commence at Arch 22 at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22nd December, 2004. We call on all political parties, civil society organisations, youth groups, Imams, priests, traditional leaders and all members of society to hold sermons and candle night vigils and all other forms of memorials to throw light on this problem so that The Gambia can forever be our peaceful homeland where we strive, work and pray so that all may live in unity, freedom and peace each day; a country where justice will guide our actions towards our common good and help us to join our diverse peoples to create a Gambia that can guarantee peace, security and freedom to all.”

I hope that the killers of Deyda Hydara will one day be brought before a court of law, so that justice will prevail.

Author: Dawda Faye