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February 28, 2012

Somali Journalist Killing Is Latest in Violent Trend

by Mohammed Yusuf

A Mogadishu radio-station director has became the third Somali journalist killed in as many months. The death underscores the constant threat against journalists working in the war-torn country.

Abukar Hassan Mohamoud is the latest journalist to be killed in the bullet-ridden Somali capital, Mogadishu. Witnesses say unidentified gunmen assassinated the Somaliweyn radio station director late Tuesday at his home in the Wadajir district.    

Radio Somaliweyn is an independent radio station operating in northern Mogadishu.

The National Union of Somali Journalists has condemned the killings. Union Secretary General Mohamed Ibrahim said it is not clear why Mohamoud was targeted, but noted that in recent times he was involved in civil society activities.

“He was planning to bring the radio on air again. The reason is yet unclear, though he was very involved in civil society activism, such as youth in Banadir region in recent days. This is a really worrying trend for the journalists working in Mogadishu and the government has not done enough to investigate and bring suspects for prosecution,” said Ibrahim.

The killing came just a month after another journalist, Radio Shabelle Network Director Hassan Osman Abdi, was gunned down outside his house in Mogadishu. The Transitional Federal Government promised to investigate the murder and arrested two suspects.

In December, a government soldier killed journalist Abdisalan His at a checkpoint in the capital.

The head of the Reporters Without Borders' Africa desk, Ambroise Pierre, said civil society and the elite in Mogadishu are targeted because of their political influence.

“When journalists are being targeted like this, and targeted in their house, it shows that people are really looking into killing the information.  For an organization like ours what is important is to stop this process,” said Pierre.

Pierre also said for a country like Somalia, without a stable government, there is need for the international community to support independent investigations into such crimes. He said this may help to catch the killers and stop this cycle of violence against the media.

The Transitional Federal Government says it has secured Mogadishu and the city is safe. Ibrahim disagrees.

“I do no think Mogadishu is safe for journalists unless the government ends the culture of impunity and brings the killers to the court. We feel as a union, it is yet unsafe,” said Ibrahim.

Media-rights groups say Somalia is the most dangerous country in Africa for journalists.

In addition to the recent killings, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] also has condemned the arrest and assault of another journalist in the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland.

A CPJ statement this week said Mohamed Abdirahman was arrested and beaten by police, who accused him of publishing a false story that said Ethiopian separatists had settled in a town in the region.