Two journalists attacked in Somalia

Two journalists have been attacked, one fatally, in less than a week in Somalia. One man is in critical condition in hospital after a knife attack in Abudwaq last Saturday, while another was shot dead in the capital city of Mogadishu on Wednesday.

Said Tahlil Ahmed, the director of Somalia’s independent radio station HornAfrik, was killed by three unidentified gunmen in Bakara market. Along with other journalists, he was on his way to a meeting called by al-Shabab, the main armed opposition group fighting in Mogadishu against Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces.

Three days after the shooting, Hassan Bulhan Ali, director of the radio station in Abudwaq town in the Galgadud region in central Somalia, was stabbed five times in the stomach and heart while at a local reconciliation meeting. Journalists in Abudwaq reported that Hassan Bulhan Ali’s attacker, who fled the scene, had accused the journalist of biased reporting against his clan.

Said Tahlil Ahmed becomes the second journalist to be killed in Somalia this year and the 11th to have been killed since the beginning of 2007. He is the latest victim in a campaign by all parties to the conflict, of targeted killings and harassment against journalists, aid workers and civil society activists in the past two years.

None of the killings of journalists, most of which appear to be targeted, have been seriously investigated and no one has been held accountable.

The first journalist to be killed this year was Hassan Mayow Hassan. Working for Radio Shabelle in the Afgoye District of the lower Shabelle region, he was shot dead on 1 January, after he was reported to have been stopped at a roadblock by a member of a Transitional Federal Government militia

In the past two years, Somali journalists have faced death threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, abductions, the closure of radio stations and other media outlets and other restrictions on their activities and coverage by TFG security forces and militias, as well as armed groups.

Amnesty International has described these attacks against journalists as deliberate actions taken by all parties to the conflict in Somalia to silence them.

“Attacking and killing journalists have become a way by parties to the conflict to settle scores about local media reporting, and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Somalia” said Michelle Kagari. “Yet Somali journalists’ work is vital, as they are the only ones to report on the daily violence affecting the population in a conflict which has become too dangerous for consistent international monitoring. The international community should press for accountability for these unlawful attacks and for journalists to be protected.”

The human rights situation in Somalia, already battered by conflict and the absence of an effective government since 1991, has sharply deteriorated over the past two years. Since the start of 2007, the war has killed more than 16,000 civilians, displaced at least 870,000 and created a humanitarian crisis, with 3.25 million Somalis now depending on aid agencies for their survival.