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Safety of Journalists in Somalia a Major Concern


U.N. agencies, the Somali government and the Somali journalists' union are working to address the problem of censorship and the threat of violence against journalists in Somalia.

So far this year, at least three journalists have been killed and three more seriously wounded in the country.

Abdirizak Ilmi, a local TV journalist, was the latest victim.

Unknown gunmen shot Ilmi at close range outside his Mogadishu home. He survived but suffered severe wounds.

'Become a peaceful nation'

The government said it’s time to address the safety of journalists.

Mustafa Duhulow, Somalia's Minister of Information, said, “As you are all aware, Somalia is moving forward to become a peaceful nation. Therefore, this is the best time to address all the challenges, such as impunity, safety of journalists and understanding the need to develop Somali media, as each country’s development depends on how free its media are."

Journalists in Somalia have been meeting with key partners to discuss their security concerns.

Recently, representatives from the United Nations, Somali government and Somali journalists union jointly expressed their concern over attacks on the media.

The U.N.'s Cassandra Nelson pointed out that Somalia is among the top 10 deadliest countries for journalists in the world.

“Despite significant progress that has been made in Somalia, assassinations, imprisonment, harassment still continue and often without impunity, and that's what we are here to talk about together as a group,” said Nelson, strategic communications director for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

Concerns of journalists

Mohamed Ibrahim, of the National Union of Somali Journalists, outlined his group's concerns.

"The impunity is giving more opportunity for the killers to do more attacks against the journalists. So this conference will mainly focus on the issue of safety and the security of journalist and the current freedom of expression situation,” Ibrahim said.

The journalists also discussed a controversial media law, awaiting parliamentary approval, that they say restricts freedom of the press, while not properly addressing their safety.

U.N. officials, such as Jaco du Toit, shared the journalists’ reservations.

Du Toit, communications adviser with UNESCO's Regional Office for East Africa, said, “Journalists are very important in our society and without the information that they provide us, we will not be able to make informed decisions."

Censorship

In addition to violence, journalists said they face the problem of government censorship.

The Somali government recently shut down two independent radio stations, accusing them of inciting violence among Somalis. Several journalists are also been imprisoned.

In Somaliland, a self-declared independent nation to the north, authorities have increased their control over the media by shutting down leading newspapers and imprisoning editors.

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