Radio dramatist's murder raises Somalia media death toll to 18
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Death toll this year is second highest in the world after Syria, and no arrests have made in any of the killings
A renowed poet, musician and radio dramatist who used comedy as a weapon against Islamist militants has become the 18th media worker killed this year in Somalia – the second highest death toll in the world after Syria.
Warsame Shire Awale, who was in his 60s, wrote and acted in comedy plays critical of al-Shabaab, the extremist group linked to al-Qaida, which he accused of twisting Islam to mislead people.
His death follows the murder of another comic, Abdi Jeylani Malaq, better known as Marshale, in August. Both men worked at Radio Kulmiye in Mogadishu.
Warsame was shot several times by unidentified men near his house in the Waberi district of Mogadishu on Monday night, the National Union of Somali Journalists said. He was taken to hospital where he was declared dead.
Warsame had received threats recently after making comments about gunmen who targeted civilians, the union said.
Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary general of the union, said: "We urge the federal authorities of Somalia to conduct a full and impartial investigation into Warsame's death and the sustained killings of journalists to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, because justice delayed is a justice denied."
Warsame was a stalwart of the Somali cultural community for more than three decades. He had been a member of the police band, held in high esteem before the civil war, and sang songs encouraging people to join the force. He recently gained popularity among young Somalis for his radio comedy dramas urging them to reject violence and support the government.
Bashir Yusuf of the Ifiso Independent Vetting Coalition, a civil society group, said: "Many Somali people affirm that he was one of the few Somali songwriters and poets who stayed in Somalia during the whole period of the civil strife.
"I don't think the killing of Warsame Shire Awale will discourage and stop others from following his footpath. It is tragic that insecurity has been in Mogadishu for more than two decades and that the outlook that it will disappear seems distant. Traumatic experiences will unfortunately linger for the near future."
One of Warsame's colleagues, Sharmarke Abukar Amin, said journalists in Somalia were being targeted solely because of their profession. Last week Mohamed Mohamud Turyare, a 25-year-old reporter at Shabelle radio, was shot as he walked home. He subsequently died of his injuries.
No arrests have been made in any of the 18 killings of journalists this year. "That's the second highest toll in the world after Syria," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights. "We are extremely alarmed by the continuing assault on Somalia's media workers and journalists by al-Shabaab and other elements."
Colville called on the Somali government "to take urgent steps to protect journalists and other media workers and to end the complete impunity that has been enjoyed by their killers. The role of the media is crucial as Somalia tries to get back on its feet, and the continued slaughter of the country's journalists risks stifling the media's ability to contribute to an improvement in law and order and good governance."
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for killing more than 10 media employees, one of whom was beheaded in Mogadishu. Some of the murders are also believed to be linked to clan and factional struggles or to have been ordered by business and political leaders unhappy with the coverage they receive.
Al-Shabaab was forced out of the capital more than a year ago by African Union peacekeepers and the Somali army, but its fighters still stage frequent attacks in the city. The press rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders has described 2012 as the deadliest year on record for journalists in Somalia, outstripping 2009 when nine died.