This morning, I joined
Deyda's widow, Maria, his adopted daughter Nellie and more than 100 family and
friends for recitations of the Holy Quran in his memory at his residence in the
Yet, December 16 was not supposed to be filled with sorrow for the Hydaras. Deyda's newspaper, The Point, was founded on December 16, 1991. The date is also his wife's birthday.
But on December 14, 2004, the brief conversation Deyda and I shared was about our apprehensions about working in a hostile environment. We had witnessed a series of arson attacks on media houses and physical attacks on journalists over political coverage--in complete impunity. We were also fighting for our freedom against the government's attempt to enact repressive media bills. I did not know it was the last time I would see Deyda.
I remember Deyda as a
champion of press freedom. I first heard his voice circa 1975 when he was a
radio DJ for Radio Syd, the
Deyda was a journalist with a deep sense of civic duty. In fact, he will be remembered for advancing humanitarian causes through the media. It was through his advocacy in The Point that Banjul's Muslim cemetery was fenced. His stories about the mentally ill at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital allowed for funds to be made available for the renovation of the hospital's psychiatric ward.
Today, journalists in the
In October of this year, when the West African Journalists Association awarded Deyda a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award, Maria Hydara commended friends of her late husband, far and near, for always remembering him. As for myself, I will always remember the words of Deyda at a journalism training workshop organized by the Gambia Press Union: "A journalist has to be committed to providing truthful information to the public and must at all times be responsible to the public. A journalist has to transcend sentiment to be able to do the job right." Deyda lived and died by those principles.