Wednesday April 3, 2019
Nairobi, April 3, 2019--Authorities in Somalia should urgently investigate an attack on the privately-owned station Universal TV and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Ten armed individuals, including nine in police
uniform, who claimed to be attached to Somalia's revenue authority,
stormed the offices of Universal TV in the capital, Mogadishu, on March
30, and started shooting inside the building, according to Abdullahi
Hersi Kulmiye, Universal TV's East Africa director, and a statement by
the government-recognized National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
Abdullahi and Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, secretary general of the
government-recognized NUSOJ, both told CPJ that the motive for the
attack was unclear, but that they did not think it was to do with unpaid
taxes. Abdullahi said that the men did not demand money. Mohamed
Moalimuu told CPJ in an email, "We believe it is kind of intimidation or
pressure from the commander behind the raid." The man who led the raid
was in civilian clothing, they said.
Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed, the director of communication at the office of
the President in Somalia, told CPJ via email yesterday that the case
was under investigation and "appropriate measures would be taken once
investigations are complete." In a March 30 post
condemning the attack on his official Facebook page, Abdinur said it
was an unacceptable that it was carried out by a section of the same
security forces meant to enforce the rule of law. Abdinur did not
respond to CPJ's follow-up email asking if the attackers had been
Abdullahi told CPJ that government officials with whom he spoke,
including Commissioner of Police Bashir Abdi Mohamed and Internal
Security Minister Mohamed Islow Duale, denied deploying police to the
station, and said they would investigate. Neither official responded to
CPJ's phone calls and text messages today and yesterday.
"This attack on Universal TV is outrageous and an unfortunate
reminder that Somali journalists cannot expect safety, even in their own
offices," said CPJ's Sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo.
"Authorities need to guard against impunity by credibly investigating
this attack and ensuring those responsible are prosecuted."
Abdullahi told CPJ that he asked the armed men to leave and said he
would speak to the man who identified himself as their commander but
they refused and an argument ensued. The men refused to speak in
Abdullahi's office or to speak with Abdullahi Hassan Bariise, a police
official whom Abdullahi called and whose department covers the Ministry
of Finance and revenue collection department. Abdullahi said that the
police official denied deploying the men to the station and said that he
would send a response team. CPJ tried to reach the police official by
phone today and yesterday, but was unsuccessful.
Abdullahi said that when he warned the armed men that their actions
might be recorded, the leader confiscated his phone and started to shoot
inside the building. Abdullahi told CPJ that most of the staff had been
moved to another part of the building by the time the shooting started
and that no one were injured. He said that a camera was damaged and
programming was disrupted during the morning and did not resume until
later in the afternoon.
Military guards from the nearby presidential palace arrived at
Universal TV and disarmed and detained the 10 men, according to
Abdullahi and Mohamed Moalimuu, who said he arrived at the station
shortly after the attack.
Mohamed Moalimuu and Abdullahi told CPJ that sources in the police
identified the individual who commanded the armed men and that Universal
TV has filed a complaint against him at the military court in
Mogadishu. The court's mandate includes prosecuting police, according to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch.