Gambian journalists fear President Yahya Jammeh

Gambian journalists fear President Yahya Jammeh

Journalists operating in Gambia, where media predator and dictator Yahya Jammeh rules with an iron-fist, are living in constant fear of being the next victim of his cruel and brutal regime.

“We are all living in fear of getting either killed or kidnapped and never to be seen again,” one Gambian journalist told Moon of the South by telephone on condition of anonymity.

President Jammeh, who claims to be God’s anointed witchdoctor curing Aids and all incurable diseases, has so far swept away all attempts by the international community and media fraternity to properly investigate past media killings and bring the perpetrators to book. This has raised speculations that he could be the suspect number one in the campaign to silence those who criticise his dictatorial policies.

“These are not speculations, it’s the naked truth. He is the one who commands the death squad behind the media killings,” a Gambian source now in exile in Dakar, Senegal, told Moon of the South. The source, who fled the country seven years ago but still has strong ears on the ground, cited the example of the late Deyda Hydara, a journalist who was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in 2004.

This week, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reopened the can of worms containing Haydara’s mysterious death, calling on the international community to do more despite Jammeh’s stony-faced defiance on the issue.

“Far more can, and should be done,” the New York-based organisation said, calling for an international inquiry to move ahead ‘without delay’ regardless of whether Jammeh gives full cooperation.

But the Gambian source, who has not set foot in Gambia since 2005, said the Haydara affair has met a dead-end and was a closed case for the regime. “Look, many people – presumably the enemies of the state as the regime puts it – have died in Gambia in mysterious circumstances since Jammeh came to power, and no one has lifted a finger to talk about that.

“Maybe Haydara and the others got lucky because they were prominent members of the media. And in almost all the cases, Jammeh has tried by all means to stifle any attempt to seek clarity around their deaths.

“And some members of the family were detained for trying, just trying to raise the issue with the relevant authorities.”

CPJ also called on ECOWAS to speak out against Gambia, urging Taiwan to stop milking the regime and finally reminding Gambian authorities to do their jobs because the Haydara case was solvable.

“ECOWAS is weak, diplomatically weak and Taiwan will never do that”, the source said.

“Gambian authorities? Jammeh is the supreme authority and nobody does anything without his permission and orders.

“What these guys should do is to lobby for regime change in Gambia, if Jammeh goes all the problems of Gambia will be solved. He is the cause of all of the country’s ills.”

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