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Somali journalists persist in their profession despite risks
Sabahi Online
Saturday, September 01, 2012

Mogadishu-based journalist Abdifatah Ahmed has received a number of death threats from militants in the past three years.

"Even if we become targets to radicals, we should not be scared away by such cowardly threats," he told Sabahi.

Ahmed said he had taken several precautionary measures since receiving the threats.

"Some of the measures I have taken include constantly changing my route when I travel between home and the workplace, as well as changing my daily routine," he said. "I sometimes resort to travelling with bodyguards."

For journalists in Somalia, 2012 has been a bloody year.

"Over the past first eight months of this year, nine journalists have been killed and 20 others have been wounded at the hands of unknown gunmen, making this year the worst and bloodiest for Somali journalists," said Abdullahi Mohamed Hassan, director of the Mogadishu Media House, which is active in promoting peace and defending the rights of journalists.

Most recently, on August 12th, Somali journalists Yusuf Ali Osman and Mohamud Beneyste were assassinated at the hands of unidentified gunmen in Mogadishu.

Mohamed Ahmed, a veteran journalist living in Mogadishu working as an editor for a Somali news website, said he has also been sent threatening messages.

"Since 2009, I have received several letters and phone calls from unknown individuals claiming to be from the radical al-Shabaab group and threatening to kill me," he told Sabahi. "They would tell me that I am an enemy of Islam and that, God willing, the mujahedeen would hunt me down and get rid of me."

Ahmed said he is afraid because many of his colleagues, who had also been threatened, were subsequently killed by unknown gunmen.

Nonetheless, Ahmed said, "I have never thought of leaving my job and fleeing my country. If I were to leave my job because of such stupid threats, this would mean that the militants would achieve their objectives and silence the media."

Abdiaziz Biilo, a correspondent in Mogadishu for Press TV, said working as a journalist in Somalia is a huge challenge.

"Every morning, you leave your home to go to work without knowing whether you will return safely or not. It is a very difficult environment and security is not guaranteed for those working in the media," he told Sabahi.

"I have attended funerals for several of my fellow journalists who were gunned down in Mogadishu by unknown individuals. Every time I wondered, 'Who will be next?'"

"Somali journalists are killed because of their profession," he said. "In spite of that, we should not quit our job for fear of militants because we feel we are serving the people by giving them access to the news and the truth behind what is happening in the country."

Mohamed Abdullahi, an independent journalist living in Mogadishu, said, "Attacks against Somali journalists have never stopped. There are lots of entities behind this, but the al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabaab group poses the greatest threat to journalists."

"Al-Shabaab considers journalists to be its number one enemy because [journalists] spread the truth and uncover the heinous crimes committed against citizens by the group on a daily basis," he said.


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