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Deyda Hydara Lives On

Oct 16, 2008, 5:01 AM

The gunmen who killed Deyda Hydara on the night of Thursday, 16 December 2004, had in their shortsightedness thought that their victim would forever be forgotten. But they succeeded in achieving the exact opposite for the slain journalist. Since his needless and untimely death about four years ago, Deyda Hydara has become a phenomenon seen in journalistic circles as the symbol of the struggle for press freedom and freedom of expression in Africa. He has been honoured posthumously all around the world, with his biography being taught in an American college and a journalism school in Africa. Some of the awards include the prestigious CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Award.

Now the West Africa Journalists' Association (WAJA) will be honouring Deyda Hydara, the martyr to press freedom, tonight at the Kairaba Beach Hotel with a Lifetime Achievement Award. This award, like the others, is a recognition of Deyda Hydara's unwavering commitment to the cause of press freedom and freedom of expression in Africa. But all these posthumous kudos on the late Deyda Hydara have a deeper significance. As well as serving as befitting memorials to a noble spirit, they are meant to inspire aspiring and practising journalists alike that when you take on a cause greater than yourself, you become larger than life - and live on even after death.

In a significant way, Deyda Hydara has defeated death and put his killers to shame. His contributions to humanity are now being celebrated all over the world. Seminars are now being conducted on his writings. A journalism student in South Africa is already working on the social and political significance of Deyda Hydara's writings; it is likely to develop into the second book on Deyda Hydara. And with the French translation of his biography being planned, we are proud to assert that Deyda Hydara has defeated death.

These posthumous accolades on Deyda Hydara should serve as a reminder to all those suffering from journalism-phobia that it is pointless to kill a journalist. By killing a practising journalist, you inadvertently make him or her into a legend. Just as it is counterproductive to send a journalist to jail, or impose heavy fines on them. It is best to allow journalists to regulate themselves by their own code of conduct.

This was the position of the late Deyda Hydara; he asserted throughout his journalistic career that journalists should not be sent to jail for press offences. He believed that erring journalists could and should be disciplined in line with the media code of conduct.

We therefore accept the Lifetime Achievement Award that will be conferred posthumously on the late Deyda Hydara tonight with pride and glee. It is yet another vindication of the late journalist's commitment to the finest ideals of journalism. Deyda Hydara lives on!

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The Life of Samuel Johnson [In Boswell, (1791)]