Abdiwali Ali Hassan, a 25-year-old Somali freelance journalist was killed by two unidentified gunmen on 16 February in Agfooye, Lower Shabelle going back home from work.
“In Somalia, it might be utterly hard to identify who is targeting you, when, where or even why!” said journalist and Somali Women in Media general secretary Deka Kasim.
“Abdwali Hassan’s murder is another major blow against Somali media. It is discouraging many young Somali journalists whom their passion was to join in the media industry,” said Federation of Somali Journalists secretary-general Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu.
Somalia tops the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Global Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free.
“Somalia still is one of the most difficult places to be a journalist, despite all these difficulties and challenges there are many journalists working in Somalia and committed to providing the information which the Somali public need to get it,” Moalimuu said.
The problem of impunity is compounded when the assailants are often the very people meant to protect journalists.
Amnesty International’s recent report details the violations and abuses of freedom of expression in south-central Somalia since 2018.
It says Somalia has one of the world’s “worst human rights and humanitarian crises”, adding that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's administration uses “heavy-handed” ways to suppress media freedom in the terrorism torn country.
“These murders of journalists are still continuing, because there are groups which their intention is to silence the media in order to get an environment [where they can be free] while committing atrocities. These include militant group Al-Shabaab, government officers and freelance gangs,” Moalimuu said.
As the death of a journalist attracts a wide local and international attention, Kasim said the perpetrators kill journalists to send a strong message to the public and giving them a platform to instill fear in society.
“There are various reasons why journalists are targeted: some are killed for attention, others are opposed to the specific media reports, some want to silence the journalists so that they are not uncovered, while others want to scare away journalists and force them to flee the country.
“We are aware of Somalia's security situation; weapons are easily accessible just as it is easy to commit murder and get away with it. This exacerbates the risky situation and makes journalists more vulnerable,” Kasim said.
Moalimuu, who has survived terrorist blasts on separate occasions said Somali journalists continue to be dedicated to their work to “feed” the locals and world on what is going on in Somalia.
“To abandon our work is what the killers of a journalist who intend to silence media want, so stopping our journalism practices simply means we agreed to what they wanted. We say NO in spite of life-threatening [circumstances],” he said.
Journalism networks can provide forms of support and solidarity for journalists working under precarious conditions.
Kasim said media organizations such can push for better policies that offer a more enabling and dignified work environment.
“Although we campaign for fearless media reporting in the country we advise journalists that no report is more valuable than human life,” Kasim said.