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PEN Gambia urges gov’t to investigate deaths of journalists

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PEN Gambia Centre, an organisation that defends freedom of expression, has called on the government to investigate the deaths of Gambian journalists Omar Barrow, Ebrima Chief Manneh and Deyda Hydara.

The Centre is an extension of PEN International, a UK based organisation operating in over 100 countries around the world. It made the call at a day-long Inter Senior Secondary School debate on Tuesday.

Journalist Omar Barrow was reportedly killed on April 10 2000 by members of the army during a student demonstration while Ebrima Manneh, a former Daily Observer journalist was arrested in July 2006 and tortured to death by government agents while Deyda Hydara was shot dead in December 2004. 

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The group urged the government to ensure thorough investigation into Mr Manneh’s disappearance and ensure there is closure for his family.

“We want to know what killed him and where he is buried,” the group said.

PEN Gambia also demand answers on Deyda Hydara’s death. “We want to know the reasons behind his killing because though the TRRC has confirmed his killing it fell short of telling us who killed him and why? We also want the government to conduct further investigations and prosecute those who are responsible for his death. We also demand the same in Omar Barow’s case,” the group added

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The executive director of PEN Gambia Centre, Musa Sheriff said his group is responsible for promoting debate and a culture of reading in schools.

“PEN International Centre is ready to work with schools, writers, and artists for the promotion of freedom, justice, and literature. But for now, in the Gambia, we want to focus on literature to bring back the culture of reading. The evolution of technology has changed the culture of reading when students used to go to the national library to read,” he said.

The Gambia Writers Association president, Dr Cherno Barry said Dedya Hydara’s only crime was defending freedom of expression.

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