Amnesty International warned on Wednesday that “a surge in violent attacks, threats, harassment and intimidation of media workers” as well as blatant bribery and social media hounding have turned Somalia into one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.
With journalists under attacks from all fronts, Amnesty said in a new report that it’s either a policeman guns down a journalist to the head or Al-Shabaab ends their lives with a bomb blast.
Somalia has been a dangerous place for a long time now but since President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ took office in February 2017, at least eight journalists have been killed there. Five died in indiscriminate Al-Shabaab attacks, two were killed by unidentified attackers, and one was shot dead by a federal police officer.
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Seventeen-year-old SBS TV cameraman Abdirirzak Qassim Iman was killed by a police bullet to his head on July 26, 2018, while returning from an assignment in Mogadishu’s Waberi district. The killer cop, Abdullahi Nur Ahmed, was , in a rare case, convicted of murder and sentenced in absentia to five years in prison, and ordered to pay 100 camels as compensation to the journalist’s family. He is hiding in Galmudug and continues to evade justice.
Apart from Qassim Iman, two journalists, Mohamed Sahal Omar and Hodan Nalayeh, were among 26 people killed in an Al-Shabaab attack in a Kismayo hotel in July 2019.
Awil Dahir Salad of Universal TV was killed in an Al-Shabaab car bomb attack in Mogadishu in December 2018. Freelance cameraman, Ali Nur Siyad, was killed in a truck bomb attack that killed more than 500 people in Mogadishu on October 14, 2017, while Abdullahi Osman Moalim died on September 13, 2017 from injuries sustained during a suicide bomb attack on a restaurant in Beledweyne, Hirshabelle state.
Ismail Sheikh Khalifa, a journalist with Kalsan TV and media rights activist, miraculously survived when his explosives-wired car blew up as he drove from the office on December 4, 2018. He is currently in Turkey nursing critical injuries.
Amnesty said with targeted attacks from both Al-Shabaab and government security forces, increased censorship and arbitrary arrests, at least eight journalists have fled the country.
“Somalia’s journalists are under siege. From barely surviving explosive-wired cars, being shot, beaten up and arbitrarily arrested, journalists are working in horrifying conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
“This crackdown on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom is happening with impunity, the authorities hardly investigate or prosecute perpetrators of attacks on journalists.”
Amnesty said it has documented in a new report, “We live in perpetual fear”, what it described as “a dramatic deterioration in the right to freedom of expression and media freedom since President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ took office in February 2017”.