January 30, 2012
The Somali government and journalists' rights advocates condemned the assassination of the director of the independent Shabelle Media Network Hassan Osman Abdi on Saturday evening (January 28th).
Unknown gunmen shot Abdi near his residence in the Wadajir district, south of Mogadishu, according to media reports. The Shabelle Media Network confirmed Abdi's death and interrupted programming to play several verses of the Qur'an as an expression of mourning for the director.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the killers have not yet been identified by police.
Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed suggested that the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement was responsible for Abdi's death.
"We condemn this disgraceful act and express our deepest sorrow," Ahmed said in a statement.
"For a long time now, the strategy of groups such as al-Shabaab has been to target public figures in our society for the purpose of spreading fear and intimidation -- but we will not be terrorised or threatened by such hideous acts," Ahmed said.
The president called on the Somali people to help police investigations to bring to justice to the gunmen responsible for this crime.
Abdi, 30, the father of two daughters and one son, was laid to rest on Sunday.
In a statement announcing his death, Shabelle Media Network said it "will not be threatened by these criminal acts and will not relinquish its commitment to freedom of speech, human rights and democratic ideals that prosper our nation and build sustainable platforms for peace and isolate violence and its means to achieve gains."
Representatives of media organisations and non-governmental organisations defending journalists' rights and freedom of the press expressed concern for the increasing attacks against journalists by armed groups in Somalia.
Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists Mohammed Ibrahim told Sabahi, "These attacks against journalists and the media have considerably increased in the past couple of years."
"The past seven years have witnessed the killing of more than 28 journalists in Somalia," Ibrahim said, adding that a number of journalists have also been harassed, detained, kidnapped for ransom and tortured by armed groups. He said it was time to act and put an end to this situation.
"We direct the strongest possible condemnation for this incident that resulted in the death of our colleague and demand that the transitional government open an immediate investigation, detain and bring the criminals to justice," Ibrahim said. "We also call on the government to implement certain mechanisms that would protect journalists while they perform their duties."
He said Somali journalists operate in a dangerous environment and under difficult circumstances as they are targeted by groups that aim to silence the media.
The 2011 annual report released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists due to violence and conflict between the government and the armed groups.
"It is quite clear that Abdi was deliberately targeted," RSF said in a statement. "We call for a serious and impartial investigation that leads to the identification of his murderers."
According to RSF, 25 journalists were killed in Somalia from 2007-2011.
Muhyi al-Deen Hassani, news editor for the Shabelle Media Network, said Abdi was the first journalist murdered in Somalia in 2012, and the third director of the network killed by unknown gunmen since 2008. Bashiir Nuur Geedi and Mokhtar Mohammed Hirabe were killed in 2008 and 2009 respectively in similar assassinations.
"We are extremely worried by the targeting of the employees of this station in particular and Somali journalists in general," Hassani said.
"The assassination of the director of Shabelle Media Network is a continuation of aggressions against Somali journalists in order to silence the media," he said, calling for an end to violence against journalists and punishment against the offenders.
President of the Somali Journalists Society Ali Mohammed Hilni said crimes specifically targeting journalists have been on the rise due to the absence of punishment.
"Ninety-percent of crimes perpetrated against Somali journalists end up without any legal action taken and the perpetrators escape justice," he told Sabahi. "Allowing murderers to escape punishment encourages criminals and killers to commit more crimes."
"This incident is but another in a series of aggressions against Somali journalists during the past couple of years," Hilni said. He called for a serious and honest investigation into this crime, and for taking the necessary steps to bring those responsible for crimes against journalists to justice.
Somali Minister of Information Abdulqadir Hussein Mohamed condemned the "barbaric assassination" and praised the work of Shabelle Media Network, which he called "one of the most important leading media institutions in the service of the country".
"The Somali police and security forces will conduct an immediate and comprehensive investigation and will not waiver in their efforts to detain and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime," he said.
Shabelle Media Network is an independent local news agency with television, radio and online reports. The station regularly produces reports on the political crisis in the country, what it describes as corruption in government agencies and full coverage of events related to al-Shabaab. The network's radio division was the 2010 recipient of the RSF Press Freedom Prize.
Abdi's death comes just over one month after Horn Cable TV journalist Abdisalaam Sheikh Hassan Hiis was killed by an armed man wearing a government military uniform in Mogadishu on December 18th. Police arrested a suspect and the investigation is ongoing.
"Somali journalists operate in an environment of fear and intimidation," journalist Abdirahman Bashir told Sabahi. "Violations against the media and the targeting of journalists are on the rise day after day, and the main cause behind this is the armed conflict in the country."
"All the warring factions consider the media their enemy and no one is happy with the role played by the media and journalists in providing news, information and facts to the audience," he said.
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