Safety of Journalists a Major Concern in Somalia
MOGADISHU — 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.
This year, at least three journalists have been killed in Somalia and three more badly wounded.
Abdirizak Ilmi, a local TV journalist, was the latest victim. Unknown gunmen shot him at close range outside his Mogadishu home. He survived, but suffered severe wounds.
Mustafa Duhulow, Somalia’s Minister of Information, said now is the time to address the safety of journalists.
“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,” said Duhulow.
Journalists in Somalia have been meeting with key partners to discuss their security concerns.
At one meeting, representatives from the United Nations, the Somali government and the 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 ten deadliest countries for journalists in the world.
“And 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.
The journalists’ union’s Mohamed Ibrahim cited his group’s concern over that attackers face little consequences for their actions.
“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,” said Ibrahim.
The journalists also debated a controversial media law that awaits parliamentary approval. For months now, journalists have expressed concern over some parts of the law — which they say restricts freedom of the press, while not properly addressing their safety.
U.N. officials, such as Jaco du Toit of UNESCO’s Regional Office for East Africa, share these reservations.
“Journalists are very important in our society and without the information that they provide us, we will not be able to make informed decisions,” said Du Toit.
In addition to violence, journalists face the problem of government censorship. The Somali government recently shut down two independent radio stations accused of inciting violence among Somalis. Several journalists are also in prisons across the country.
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.