Murder and Intimidation As “Nightmare Year” For Somali Journalists Continues

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the assassination on Friday of a leading radio journalist in Somalia where a wave of brutal and targeted attacks has claimed eight media victims this year. On the same day a number of incidents across the country suggested independent media face a new wave of intimidation.

The IFJ has joined its affiliate in the country, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), in protests over the killing of Bashir Nor Gedi, acting head of the Shabelle Media Network who was gunned down at his home on Friday evening in Wardhigley district of Hamarjadid neighborhood. His friends and colleagues are convinced this is a targeted assassination.

“2007 is turning into a nightmare year for Somali journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This latest murder shows how the absence of rule of law and the disintegration of democratic values has left journalists and media exposed to terror and intimidation on an unprecedented scale.”

The killing came on a day when numerous incidents in the country involving journalists pointed to new oppression of media. Abdi Farah Jama Mire, Director of Radio Garowe, Mohammed Dahir Yusuf, Producer, and Isse Abdullahi Mohammed, the radio’s Editor were arrested and detained by heavily armed Puntland security forces on Friday afternoon and the radio station closed. Later Abdi Mire and Dahir Yusuf were released.

Earlier in the day Abdirashid Abdulle Abikar, a photojournalist working with the Agence France Presse news agency was briefly arrested by security agents of the Transitional Federal Government. Following hours of questioning he was released. In another incident, Abdirashid Abdulle Abikar, who is secretary of training of the National Union of Somali Journalists, was arrested whilst taking photos of wounded people at Madina hospital. His photographic equipment was confiscated.

In another incident Abdullahi Mohammed Hassan "Black", Editor-in-Chief of the Mogadishu based Ayamaaha Daily Newspaper, was arrested by forces from National Security Agency at the newspaper's office in Mogadishu. He was held overnight and released on Saturday morning.

“This killing and the harassment of journalists are a further indicator of the perilous conditions facing journalists in Somalia. Political chaos and lawlessness makes the exercise of free journalism almost impossible,” said White.

He said the media crisis in Somalia would figure on the agenda of the IFJ International Executive Board which meets in Brussels at the end of next week. “We will do all we can to build solidarity with our Somali colleagues,” he said.

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The IFJ is the world’s largest journalists’ organisation representing more than 600,000 in 117 countries.