Keynote Address of Demba A. Jawo
Minister of Information and Communications Infrastructure
At the Commemoration of The 13th Anniversary of the Killing of Journalist Deyda Hydara
Baba Hyadara, son of the late Deyda Hydara
The representative of the Manneh Family
President of the Gambia Press Union
All protocols respectfully observed.
I stand here before this august gathering to commemorate the death of Deyda Hydara, a journalist, friend and colleague who was shot dead on December 16, 2004.
On December 16, 2004, renowned Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara was shot dead. Deyda’s case, like in most cases, was perpetuated by rampant impunity. 90 percent of the time, again as in Deyda’s case, the perpetrators are never brought to justice.
For the past thirteen (13 years) the Gambia Press Union, friends of the Gambian media and the international community have condemned Deyda’s killing and other attacks against Gambian journalists.
On this 13th anniversary of Deyda Hydara’s death, I am relieved that we will go beyond calling for justice as we have been doing for the past 13 years. This year, the new Government of The Gambia has agreed to respect the decisions of the ECOWAS Community Court in vis-à-vis compensating the families of Deyda Hydara and Chief Ebrima Manneh. My colleague, Abubacarr Tambadou, the Minister of Justice is in contact with the families to discuss payment modalities.
The Gambia Government through the Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure is committed to creating the enabling environment for both Gambian and international journalists in the country to perform their duties without fear of reprisals.
To this effect, I have proposed specific steps to intensify our efforts to enhance the safety of journalists.
As indicated by daily revelations at the Commission of Inquiry looking into the former president’s assets and finances, discoveries of Police investigations and the Solo Sandeng Trial, it is evident that when journalists were targeted in The Gambia, our whole society had to pay the price. News that could have covered - corruption, fraud, conflicts of interest, and even state sponsored murder - was silenced.
This is the kind of information the Gambian public deserves to know. This is the kind of information the Gambian public has a right to know. Access to Information is also considered an urgent public need by my Ministry, hence we have over the past two months fast-tracked all initiatives to work towards the formulation and drafting of a Bill. It is evident that an ATI Law alone will not solve the problems faced by the Gambian media whilst repressive media laws still exist.
Ladies and gentlemen
You will recall that national consultative conference was held on the Constitutional Review and a reform the of media laws earlier this year. Therefore routine sensitization and inclusion, through consultations of all stakeholders as evidenced by our recent High Level Forum on Access to Information in The Gambia will be conducted throughout this process to ensure that all stakeholders partake in this important endeavor.
In this regard, the Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure in consultation with the Gambia Press Union is working closely with the Ministry of Justice, with support from Article 19 to ensure a speedy and appropriate revision of all media laws.
The UN urges member states to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers and bring perpetrators to justice as well as promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to work independently and without undue interference and or reprisals.
Also, in recognition of the importance of a free and independent media in advancing development and peace in The Gambia, the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure together with others in Cabinet, particularly the Ministry of Justice are deeply committed to working towards eliminating impunity for crimes against media professionals, promote freedom of the media and rule of law. As such, we intend to put in place mechanisms to ensure that journalists and media workers aren’t faced with violence and intimidation.
My Ministry intends to engage and work with security services of The Gambia to investigate all cases involving the assault of journalists conducting their lawful professional duties. Such investigations will not only assist in bringing the culprits to book, but, the intention is to send a clear message to other would-be perpetrators that under the new dispensation, the Gambia Government will not tolerate these wanton acts of impunity against journalists.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Though it is true that there has been no progress in establishing accountability for the killing of Deyda Hydara, The Gambia Government is working towards unearthing some of the heinous crimes through the Truth, Reconciliation and Re-compensation Commission, which bill was approved by the National Assembly a few days ago. I am hopeful that the TRRC proceedings will shed light on events that led to Deyda’s death and propose adequate recommendations in dealing with perpetrators of this dreadful act.
Securing justice for journalists and their families is essential to achieving a Gambia in which all are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion without fear of reprisals and in which we all have access to a range of facts and opinions necessary for making informed decisions about issues of importance to our lives and to our country.
Thank you all.