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Heightened concern over journalist safety in Somalia

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
By Mahmoud Mohamed

Press rights organisations have expressed heightened concern over the rising number of attacks against Somali journalists after gunmen recently tried to assassinate Universal TV reporter Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle.

Abdulle was shot four times by unidentified gunmen near his home in Mogadishu's Wadajir district on Saturday (July 7th). He sustained serious injuries and the armed men fled the scene.

Director of Madina Hospital Mohamed Yusuf said Abdulle underwent surgery and is expected to recover from his injuries.

"We are deeply concerned about the continued assassinations and assassination attempts directed [against] journalists at this critical time," said National Union of Somali Journalists Secretary General Mohamed Ibrahim. "We call for an urgent investigation into the matter."

Abdullahi Mohamed Hassan, director of Mogadishu Media House, called on the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to prioritise investigations into attacks against journalists so that perpetrators are brought to justice.

"At Mogadishu Media House, we are concerned about escalating violence against Somali journalists," he told Sabahi.

"This situation is simply unacceptable and we call on the TFG to open an immediate investigation into this incident and reveal the perpetrators responsible for attacks against Somali journalists." he said. "We also call on the government to give priority to detaining the perpetrators and bringing them to justice as well as taking the necessary measures to protect Somali journalists."

Somali government condemns the attack
The TFG condemned the attempted assassination and encouraged citizens with information to come forward with any tips that could lead to the arrest of individuals responsible for the crime.

"We condemn this attempted assassination and call for investigations to bring to justice the perpetrators of this criminal act," Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications Abdikadir Mohamed Hussein said in a statement.

"The public should not allow criminal groups to intimidate them with such cowardly acts, and should support the ongoing security operations in the capital that will certainly confront those who professed hostility against journalists as well as peace activists," he said.

General Abdullahi Hassan Barise, director of the police's Criminal Investigations Division, said security forces are conducting investigations into the incident and that they will spare no efforts to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Barise also called on the public to provide as much assistance as possible to the security services in order to hunt down those who are trying to destabilise public security.

Attempts to silence the truth
Since the beginning of this year, attacks against journalists have been steadily rising.

Abdulle is the second journalist who escaped an assassination attempt in Mogadishu in less than two months. Last month, Mohamed Nur Sharif, a reporter for UN-funded Radio Bar Kulan, escaped a similar assassination attempt as unidentified gunmen attacked him near his home in the Hamar Jajab district, south of Mogadishu.

In May, unidentified gunmen killed Ahmed Addow Anshur, a journalist and news anchor for the Shabelle Media Network, near his home in Mogadishu, making him the sixth journalist to be killed in Somalia this year.

Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has described Somalia as the deadliest African nation for journalists

Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Association Abdikadir Osman said these attacks are an attempt to silence the media and constrain freedom of speech.

"Six Somali journalists have been killed at the hands of unknown gunmen and more than 20 have been injured since the start of 2012, while only four journalists were killed throughout 2011," he told Sabahi.

Osman called on the Somali government to bring the perpetrators to justice. "We strongly condemn the targeting of journalists. We urge the TFG to work hard to bring the perpetrators to justice and end the culture of impunity," Osman said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt against Abdulle, and the identity of those behind the series of attacks against Somali journalists remains unknown.

However, the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab movement has often resorted to harassing and terrorising journalists. The group closed down several radio stations, confiscated equipment and restricted the capacity of the local media to report on events in the areas under its control.

But journalists say they will not be deterred.

"The ongoing attacks and aggression against Somali journalists will not deter journalists from reporting events, [uncovering] facts and regularly informing the world about what is happening in the country," Somali journalist Hassan Abdullahi told Sabahi. "In the absence of the international media, Somali journalists are providing a much needed service in the midst of a very dangerous conflict."


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