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Somalia’s brave journalists under fire

Friday, November 02, 2012

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BAIDOA — Camera in one hand and pistol in the other, Somali reporter Abdukadir Hassan Abdirahman goes out to work on some of the most dangerous streets for journalists in the world. Sometimes reporting from anarchic Somalia — where at least 18 media workers have been killed this year, double the worst on record and second only to war-torn Syria — takes more than courage alone.

“I know that what I’m doing could be wrong ethically — you shouldn’t carry a gun and at the same a camera and a notebook,” said Abdirahman, the only reporter daring to work in the former Islamist insurgent bastion of Baidoa.

“But there was no other option left... I had to either leave town as my colleagues did, or continue to work with a gun in my hand,” the father of three said, a reporter for the independent Universal Television station.

Somalia’s journalists are reeling from a string of attacks, including assassinations as well as those caught up in bomb blasts or killed reporting on frontline battles against Al-Qaeda linked Shabab insurgents.

Even two comedians who poked fun at the Shabab have been murdered.

Several killings are blamed on the Shabab, but other murders are also believed to be linked to struggles within the multiple factions in power.

But 27-year-old Abdirahman believes that the risks are worth running to keep a free press alive in the Horn of Africa nation, even though he fears the pistol he carries may not be enough to protect him.
“I’m the only journalist daring to operate inside Baidoa for now, and even though I’m forced to carry a gun for self-defense, one day my killers will get me,” Abdirahman said.
Invading Ethiopian troops fighting alongside Somali forces seized Baidoa in February from the Shabab, with the extremist fighters fleeing the strategic town, some 250 km northwest of Mogadishu.
A 17,000-strong AU force is still battling retreating Shabab forces in the region to open the road between the capital and Baidoa.

Abdirahman, who worked in the city under Shebab control, said he now receives death threats from the extremists, who stage assassinations inside the city and still control surrounding regions. “The Shabab threaten me with death threats by telephone...but I will continue working so long as I’m alive,” he said.

Abdirahman’s colleagues in Mogadishu face similar daily dangers, even as the city slowly returns to life, with a newly elected president and parliament struggling to rebuild stability after more than two decades of war.
“Whenever my telephone rings I fear hearing another friend has been killed,” said radio reporter Hanad Ali. — AFP


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