Somalia: Deadliest nation for African journalists
Mogadishu axad 7 October 2012 SMC
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DCMF alarmed by the deaths of six more journalists in a week, a clear
indication of the dangers faced by media members in the war-torn
By Peter Townson Mon, 01/10/2012 More Sharing ServicesShare on
printfriendlyShare on email President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh
Mahmud, has been urged to address the culture of impunity and protect
journalists in his country (AFP) A record number of journalists have
been killed in Somalia this year.
The war-ravaged country is the most dangerous country in Africa for
members of the media, and last week, six more journalists lost their
lives, taking this year’s death toll to 15. DCMF has strongly
condemned the attacks, and has spoken to journalists and experts about
the situation for members of the Somalia media.
This year has been the deadliest year yet for journalists in Somalia.
Throughout 2012, journalists have been killed at a rate of more than
one a month, and the recent killings of six journalists within the
space of a week has prompted rights organisations and press freedom
watchdogs to urge the Somali authorities to set an example by bringing
those responsible for the deaths to justice.
On the evening of Thursday, September 20, two suicide bombers
detonated devices in a well-known meeting place for journalists called ‘The Village’ in Mogadishu, killing two journalists and injuring many
others. The following morning, Hassan Yusuf Absuge was shot three
times in the head as he left his radio station having been reporting
on the bombings which had already shaken the journalistic community.
One week later, Ahmed Abdulahi Fanah was shot in the head on his way
to work the day before Abdirahman Mohamed Ali’s decapitated body was
dumped in the street.
With these six deaths, the number of journalists killed in Somalia in
2012 has jumped to 15.
Throughout years of conflict, bloodshed and suffering, Somalia’s
journalists have never suffered as heavily as they are doing in the
current climate. Every day, they face paying the ultimate sacrifice
to inform people about what is happening within their country, and
they carry out their work in the knowledge that every story they write
could be the last.
Supporters of the Al Shabaab militia have been identified as the
orchestrators of the recent bombings and the ongoing situation
indicates that members of the media have become a more popular target
for rebels and militia who are desperate to present their propaganda
throughout the nation at every opportunity.
Should this be the case, then journalists in Somalia will face more
intimidation, danger and death in the future, unless steps are taken
to bring those who target journalists, to justice.
DCMF and NUSOJ
DCMF has been working with the National Union of Somali Journalists
(NUSOJ) in recent years to offer assistance to a number of media
workers facing danger in Somalia. The centre has provided protective
equipment as well as financial assistance to many Somali journalists,
and in the past year, the centre has provided more assistance to
journalists from Somalia than any other country.
Following the recent violent attacks, DCMF spoke to secretary-general
of NUSOJ, Mohamed Ibrahim, to find out more about the current climate
for journalists in Somalia, and how the continued targeting of
journalists is affecting media freedom there.
“Being a journalist in Somalia is very dangerous job. In South and
Central Somalia, journalists face death threats, intimidations,
arbitrary arrests from the local government and continued brutal
murder,” he said.
“Noone has been either arrested or charged,” he explained, adding “the
impunity is the motivating factor of these murders.”
The fact that the media has become a player in the ongoing conflict
between the government and rebel groups has also led to the present
dangers, he argued.
“The safety of Somali media professionals has declined drastically in
recent years because the media has been perceived as part and parcel
of the conflict, a platform to pass warmongering messages and a
functional instrument for defeating enemies.”
“Journalists who decline to bend to the whims of the warmongers,
received warnings telling them they will pay the price of defiance
before they were murdered. Media practitioners who have dared to
expose the ills in the society are often killed for stories they
“The suicide bombings that killed scores of people and three
journalists and wounded several others who are still receiving
treatment in Mogadishu hospitals supported by DCMF through the NUSOJ,
followed by the assassination of the renowned Somali journalist, the
late Hassan Yusuf Absuge, has shocked the Somali media fraternity,
throwing blankets of fears on them, thinking about who will be next.”
“The transitional government has not done enough to improve the
situation, but we are expecting the new government to give priority to
the security and safety of the journalists. NUSOJ is still lobbying
to gain justice for murdered colleagues and the union’s plan is to
meet all the law enforcement agencies and the current president as
well to request to open independent investigations into the killings
of the journalists,” he explained.
“As far as NUSOJ is concerned, only effective law enforcement agencies
and justice system both working together can lead to an improvement in
DCMF spoke to journalist Hashim Barre in the wake of the recent
bombings. “The death of these four journalists is part of a brutal
exercise carries out daily in Somalia in an effort to oppress media
activities,” he said.
“Being a journalist in Somalia is very risky and we work under
terrifying conditions. Our efforts to report the truth of what is
happening in our country are being undermined by groups targeting
media personnel, and nothing has been done to ensure that those who
target journalists are arrested and action is taken against them,” he
Journalists in exile
Another consequence of the violence directed towards journalists in
Somalia is that many feel the need to flee their home country for
According to reports by refugee campaign groups, Hagadera Refugee Camp
in Kenya is currently home to at least two former journalists, who
were forced from their homes and now struggle to find food and water
on a daily basis.
Maano Hussein Ibrahim and Mohamud Abdirahman Beene Beene are both
languishing in the camp after leaving Somalia, and they are forced to
take domestic jobs to earn as little as $1 a day.
Earlier this year, DCMF spoke to Ahmedsadik Yusuf and Mohamed Odawa,
who had both fled Somalia for fear of their lives. Having witnessed
their colleagues being harassed, attacked and even murdered, they
represent just a few of the many journalists whose work has led to
them regarding their position at home as untenable.
Mohamed Ibrahim explained that after fleeing to countries such as
Kenya and Uganda, many journalists have decided to return to their
home country and face the dangers of work in Somalia. Unfortunately
for many, such as Abdisatar Dahir Sabriye who was killed in the recent
bombings, their worst fears are realised upon returning home.
Threat to Somalia
The campaign of terror aimed at members of the media represents a
significant threat for Somalia as a whole. As the country attempts to
climb out of the depths of civil war and rebuild a stable and peaceful
future, extremists continue to target one of the most important
bastions of any stable and flourishing democracy.
The UK’s ambassador to Somalia, Matt Baugh summed up the general
reaction to the recent bombings in a statement, saying: “Yet again
cowardly extremists have assassinated a Somali journalist for doing
his job. Four journalists have been killed and several others injured
over the last two days, with many others taken from their families
over the past months, simply for expressing their right to freedom of
speech and information.”
"The aim of the perpetrators of these crimes is to halt the momentum
for change now felt by Somali people. I stand firmly with the
overwhelming majority of Somali people that reject this cycle of attacks on journalists, with the voices calling for urgent action
against these killers, and with all those committed to protecting
human rights and seeking justice," he added.
International appeal for action
The 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council witnessed the passing
of a resolution, urging the government to protect journalists:
"[The UN] strongly condemns all attacks on journalists, including the
deadly terror attack on 20 September and the assassination on 21
September of a prominent journalist in Mogadishu; calls upon the
Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia to protect the safety of
the journalists; and calls on all states to provide the necessary
technical assistance to the Government of the Federal Republic of
Somalia, the sub-national authorities, the national union of Somali
journalists and individual journalists in this regard; and urges the
State actors and non-State actors to refrain from intentional violence
against and harassment of journalists and to respect freedom of
Human Rights Watch has also issued a statement calling on the newly
appoint President to investigate the killings and reverse the culture
of impunity which continues to endanger the lives of journalists in
Deputy director of the Africa division for Human Rights Watch, Leslie
Lefkow said: “Somalia’s journalists have long topped the lists of
targets by all sides during the country’s brutal civil war. The new
Somali president can act to end this horrific pattern by ordering
prompt and serious investigations into these killings.”
“Countries that are truly committed to new beginnings in Somalia
should make tackling the horrific killings of journalists a priority,”
she argued, adding “Somalia’s international partners should press the
new government to carry out credible investigations into these
killings and offer the government help in doing so.”
HRW is not the only group to call for action, and numerous other
international organisations have urged the Somali government to do
more to protect journalists and defend them as they carry out their
DCMF condemns culture of impunity
Doha Centre for Media Freedom has also spoken out against the
targeting of journalists, and urged the Somali authorities to
investigate the attacks with the aim of reversing the current culture
of impunity. In a statement, the centre said:
“DCMF strongly condemns the recent attacks against journalists in
Somalia, and the tragic loss of life which has taken place among media
workers in the country.
The centre repeats its calls for the government to do everything
within its powers to bring those responsible to justice and ensure
that they are not left free to attack others in the future.
The death toll of journalists in Somalia this year has been increasing
on an almost monthly basis, and the culture of impunity which abounds
in the country poses a significant and dangerous threat to journalism
and media freedom.
President Hassan Sheikh Mahmud has the opportunity to make a stand for
human rights and media freedom by ensuring that justice is done in
these, and other unsolved cases in Somalia by launching comprehensive
investigations. By setting a precedent and creating a deterrent for
those who target the media, he will improve the conditions for
journalists throughout the country.”
DCMF has joined a number of international organisations, including the
Committee to Protect Journalists, the Rory Peck Trust and Free Press
Unlimited, to send assistance to some of the journalists to be injured
in the recent bombing.
The centre is currently in the process of providing assistance to
Abdullahi Mohammed Ali, 26, a radio reporter who suffered a broken leg
in the attack, as well as 28-year-old Abdikarin Hussein Gutale, a TV
reporter who suffered shrapnel wounds to the back and head and Mohamed
Hussein Mohemd, 23, a radio and TV journalist who requires urgent
treatment for shrapnel wounds to his arms and legs and burns to his
Sources: DCMF, NUSOJ, HRW
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