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Silencing The Voice of Freedom

by Abdi-Noor Hagi Mohamed
Sunday, August 12, 2007

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In the chaotic city of Mogadishu, yesterday 11 August, two prominent journalists have been killed , one of them, Ali Iman Sharmarke, who was the director and co-founder of Horn Afrik Radio in Mogadishu. The other victim of the brutal killing was Mahad Ahmed Elmi who has been the Director of the Capital Voice FM station located within the premises oif Horn Afrik. Mahad represented and acted as the voice of freedom for those whose voice was not heard beyond their obliterated shacks in the camps inhabitied by displace populations in Mogadishu. The two directors have lost their lives when Mahad was gunned down by unknown assailants while Mr. Sharmarke died in a bomb explosion planted on the roadside shortly after he returned from the graveyard where Mahad was buried.

As reported by McClatchy Newspapers published on 11 August it was clear that Mr Ali Iman Sharmarke felt deply shocked with the news of Mahad's death and had no direction to immediately point to his finger. In his interview with the paper Mr. Sharmarke said: "We are in the crossfire — all of us journalists. Both sides didn't like Mahad advocating for the voiceless. We cannot pinpoint (the killer), but my suspicion is there are some people who wanted to silence him."

Mahad Ahmed Elmi, widely known for his updated coverage on the plight of the Somali people and the morning talk show of Good morning Mogadishu commonly known as Hoodi-Hood while Ali Iman Sharmarke shall be remembered for his role to organize and set up the Somalia Coalition for Freedom of Expression SOCFEX of which I am a member of the Executive Board. The slain directors were both close friends of mine and their fateful exit shall remain in the memory of the Somali Journalists, peace activists and media institutions.  May Allah rest their soul in peace.

rior to these killings there were attacks on media corporations and widespread abuse on the media workers in Mogadishu who were accused by the TFG of injecting faulty reports and news stories into the websites often refered by International Community as a reliable source of information. Whether the journalist-killing incidents are linked to these accusations or not is hitherto clear and so far there is no group which could be implicated with this nasty and rather organized conspiracy against two prominent figures in Somalia.
But, truth if thrown into a pond of treachery it shall push itself up from the depths of the murky waters appearing on the surface for everybody to see it. It only needs time to get an up thrust force that can help it  maintain a sufficient bouyancy. One must know that Freedom of Speech has a voice of its own which is distinct and quite unique. It is a voice of integrity that reverberates in the winds of truth and whose sound echoes in the air of liberty. No one can silence it with the use of force or at gunpoint.
It is everybody’s right to write or speak as freely as he or she wishes and it is a human right to express views and ideas without fear of harassment, intimidation torture imprisonment or summary execution. Freedom of expression is an inalienable right which everybody has to exercise in the most rightful way. It is a power more powerful than the power of the gun. It is a mighty power of the people's power generated from within the people and born for the sole reason of empowering people through defending and educating the people.
In the civilized world it freedom of expression is protected by the very people it is protecting who go to the streets if the state tampers with Freedom of Expression. But in the case of Somalia, Freedom of Expression is a naked voice with no sheath or shield to protect itself from being trampled upon because we, the peolple of Somalia who were supposed to protect it, still live in a stateless nation when every nation in the world has a state.  
As I once shared with you dear readers in a previous article posted at HOL when Duniya Muhidiin Noor, another Horn Afrik journalist murdered at a roadblock in Afgoi on 5 June 2005, Freedom of Expression in Somalia is like a tongue in an unstable mouth whereby the tongue has to be careful when the teeth are in action otherwise a clash might happen between them. And if a clash takes place it is the tongue which always bleeds. So in a situation like Somalia where the warring groups both have same ill-feelings about the press,a journalist or a media worker is always a victim of brutal actions aimed at silencing the voice of peace and freedom.
Back in the warlord days the somali journalists were harrassed and killed by virtue of their profession and when warlords were chased away by the Islamic courts, the media was again targeted as they were accused of spreading false rumours about Islamic Court's way of handling human rights issues. And now when we have TFG in place Freedom of Expression is still on fire leaving the somali journalist in the middle of nowhere or hanging from a "rope burning at both sides" as mucalimo of BBC somali section had cleverly put it.
I think it is high time the Somali intellectuals including those in the Diaspora, civil society groups, human rights activists peace lobbyists, journalists, poets, writers etc. organized themselves to spearhead a struggle to take part in the restoration of peace in their own homeland.
As Somali intellectuals, It is a shame that we split and take sides with the warring groups and political stalwarts in the country as by doing so we would become part of the problem by prolonging the crisis which could lead Somalia sink deeper into fathomless pits of disaster. The TFG and the insurgents are both committing incalculable crimes against their own people and we should not just sit back and watch while Somalia is perishing in the hands of interest –oriented groups who wish to make a fortune out of their misery. Let's pull Somalia out from the rubble as we shine through the clouds of despondency. Let's glow brightly like a candle of hope emiting a soothing sparkle to all directions as it flickers with joy and style.
Please share this poem with me:
They are the Somali journalists
With bullets they were riddled  
Their bodies lie on the sand
Everybody feels shocked
But no one acts against it
People just look and shrug
Waving arms up in the air
Swallowing the right words
Making unimpressive gestures
Giving the impression of
"What can I do to avoid this?"
Complacency only hurts brother
It never cures
Wake up please
Abdi-Noor Mohamed
Writer and Filmmaker
Mogadishu, Somalia

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