News blackout in Gambia after murder of journalist

Gambia’s lively independent media fell silent on Monday to open a weeklong news blackout to honour Deida Hydara, the dean of the press corps who was slain last week in what his colleagues believe was a politically motivated act.

“It’s the Gambian Constitution which says under Section 25 that every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media,” said a leaflet handed out by the independent The Observer newspaper, in place of its daily edition.

“Section 207 indicates that the freedom and independence of the press are hereby guaranteed—but how can such a guarantee be real when arsonists and murderers roam freely, to carry out their contentious atrocities against the media community?”

The press union in the former British colony called on Saturday for a news blackout after the fatal slaying late on Thursday of Hydara (58), who was felled by three bullets in what colleagues said appeared to be a drive-by shooting as he left the offices of the daily The Point, of which he was co-editor.

The two dailies, along with The Independent and Fooraaya, withheld their Monday editions, while Gambia’s leading independent radio station Radio One suspended its news broadcasts on Monday morning.

Hydara, a fierce opponent of a repressive press Bill that President Yahwa Jammeh signed into law last Tuesday, also worked for the France-based media watchdog Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

According to RSF, he was the “impetus” behind an open letter sent by the watchdog to Jammeh on Thursday, the day he was killed, urging the president not to sign the press Bill that authorises jail time for journalists who violate press laws and heavy fines for their publishers.—Sapa-AFP

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