The UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia has “strongly condemned” the killings of two Somali journalists. Eric Laroche is calling for “decisive action to ensure the freedom and safety of the media.”
Radio HornAfrik journalist Mahad Ahmed Elmi was shot dead Saturday, while HornAfrik founder and chairman Ali Iman Sharmarke was killed when his car passed a roadside bomb as he returned from his colleague’s funeral.
From Nairobi, Laroche spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the deaths of the Somali journalists.
“First, let me express my personal sympathy to the families and colleagues of those two journalists. I think it’s very, very unfortunate and we are all very much shocked at what has happened to them. I want also to express my solidarity with members of all these media professions that do some vital work. Because people have the right to know, particularly in Somalia,” he says.
He says the two “respected” journalists had worked closely with NGOs to raise awareness about such things as HIV/AIDS and landmines.
“There have been six journalists that have been killed in Somalia since the beginning of the year…. It also shows that it is so difficult to do this work in Somalia. And it shows that these people need to be fully protected. And it’s very important that they keep having freedom of information and freedom of media in Somalia,” Laroche says.
As for his call for decisive action to protect the media, he says, “I think the Transitional Federal Government has the responsibility to ensure this protection. I think it is really important that – and they have started doing it – they have to conduct immediately an impartial investigation, in spite of the difficulties…to work and to make sure the authority of the Transitional Federal Government is going to be seen in Mogadishu. I think it is very important that somehow these media have to be respected and have to be protected. It is really important.”
Current draft legislation is being considered in Somalia to ensure freedom and protection of the media. “How to we do that in practice? I must say it’s very difficult…because the violence against the media and against journalists comes from all parties to the conflict. And I think we have to have enhanced respect for these people that are doing an essential job,” he says.
Asked whether he sees any improvement in Somalia, the UN officials says, “It’s very difficult for me to say that…. The characteristic of Somalis is one day it’s up and the day after it’s down. And it’s always like this…. I think you need to look at the trend…. They all talk about Mogadishu, but in fact, Mogadishu is not Somalia, frankly speaking. So, in the rest of Somalia, I think the situation is evolving on a reasonable track. But Mogadishu is definitely a major problem.”