The biography of a prominent Gambian journalist, former Managing Editor of The Point and AFP correspondent, was unveiled on Wednesday in neighbouring Senegal. Gunned down in 2004, by yet unknown assassins, on a street near a police barracks on December 16, 2004, the late Deyda Hydara had reportedly had threats to his life by some unknown people. Titled ‘A Living Mirror - The Life of Deyda Hydara’, the book was made public to more than 200 delegates to an international symposium in Dakar on Democracy and Governance in Africa.
The then 58-year-old was an outspoken critic of draconian media laws authorizing jail terms for journalists who violate legislation on the press and heavy fines for their publishers. “We have written this book to ensure that Deyda Hydara is not seen to have died in vain; he died fighting for press freedom, for human rights, for freedom, for justice and democracy,” one of the co-authors, Aloa Ahmed Alota told AFP.
In a preface to the 216-page book, Alota and co-author, Demba Ali Jawo, described Hydara as having “embraced a brand of journalism variously termed as journalism of purpose, journalism of meaning, or advocacy journalism.” “His life struggles reflect humanity’s ongoing quest for liberty and ... enlightenment,” they added.
Hydara was also a correspondent for the global media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “We are struggling for freedom of expression and memoirs like these augment some of the work we are doing around freedom of expression,” said Ben Akoh, Programme Officer for a non-governmental organisation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), which sponsored the publication of the book. Proceeds from book sales will go towards setting up a trust for the promotion of press freedom, good governance and economic development on the continent.
The book will be formally launched in Gambia next month, according to Alota. “The book should draw international attention regarding the media situation in The Gambia, which is still antagonistic and hostile to effective media practice,” said Alota.
Gambia, under the elected presidency of Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 military coup, is regularly criticized by press freedom organisations for regressive media curbs.