International media rights groups are expressing shock and concern over reports a journalist working for VOA's Somali Service in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland may have been deliberately shot by the police.
Tuesday's shooting of reporter Mohamed Yasin Ishaq in the Puntland-administered part of Galkayo in central Somalia has sparked alarm among international media groups already distressed by deteriorating working conditions for journalists in Somalia.
The head of the Africa Desk for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Ambroise Pierre, tells VOA reports a Puntland police officer shot Ishaq the day after the reporter was threatened by a local police chief is deeply troubling.
"We are very much unhappy and concerned about the fact that after being threatened, a journalist can be shot like this," Pierre said. "I think the latest weeks show there is obviously a problem between the police or the administration in Puntland and VOA, and the Puntland authorities should say clearly what the problem is. The police are now saying that journalists can work freely in Puntland. But after arrests, after censorship, and after now a very violent attack, we have the right to ask the authorities to really show that journalists are able to work freely."
According to Mohamed Yasin Ishaq, he was shot by a uniformed policeman while driving through a police checkpoint. Ishaq says the policeman fired at him three times, ignoring screams from other policemen that the reporter had been given permission to move on.
One of the bullets struck Ishaq underneath his left shoulder and exited, just missing the heart. A colleague took the wounded reporter to a hospital, where he was treated and later released.
In a subsequent interview with VOA Somali Service, Ishaq said he believed the shooting was related to a threat he received the day before from a local police chief, who came uninvited to a meeting of local journalists. The topic of discussion among the journalists was the increasingly tense relationship between the media and the Puntland administration.
Ishaq said the police chief, Muse Ahmed Abdirahman, looked at him and said loudly, "Mr. Ishaq, you will need to be responsible for the stories you report on VOA and you will pay the price for it." Two other journalists at the meeting confirmed Ishaq's statement.
The police chief has denied making the threat. Abdirahman says Ishaq was shot by the police because he failed to slow down as he approached the police checkpoint and there were fears the reporter was a suicide bomber.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists joined Reporters Without Borders in calling for a thorough investigation of the incident.
In August, Puntland security forces arrested and briefly detained Ishaq on charges of inciting violence after the reporter filed a series of reports on assassinations of several high-level officials in Puntland.
About a month later, Puntland's deputy minister of information suspended three VOA journalists and barred any other VOA journalist from reporting in the region. The administration also banned local radio stations from airing VOA programs. The ban was lifted several days later, before a meeting of Puntland expatriates in the U.S. city of Minneapolis.