Over the past two years, Mogadishu has been a symbol of progress and development. The sound of guns has been replaced by the sound of hammers. Notwithstanding the improved security situation in the capital and the boom in business — including within the media industry — there were still reminders of the violent past. The systematic attack against journalists was one of the cruelest.
In this year alone, 18 Somali journalists were killed as a result of targeted attacks all over the country, the majority in Mogadishu. All the killings had something in common: seeming impunity for the perpetrators. Although a few arrests were made by the authorities, they seemingly never led to conviction and punishment. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes are still at large. I have visited wounded journalists in the hospital and I have listened to their concerns. Fear and insecurity was growing in the media community. Some of them were fleeing the country but the majority have stayed and continued to perform their profession undeterred.
I have consistently spoken out on this issue, in condemning these attacks, and offering my office’s help in support of the Somali authorities. My frustration only grew as the number of attacks increased and the perpetrators enjoyed complete impunity. Recently, I had an opportunity to share my concerns with President Hassan Sheikh. He was most responsive and demonstrated a profound incisive understanding of this serious problem. And now he has taken the first step.
Freedom of speech provides the basis for the creation of a democratic society. Every attack against the media is an attack against transparent governance. The armed opposition in Somalia thrives on targeting journalists to inspire fear and generate publicity.
This is why the President’s decision is so important. It represents a major initiative that all of us in the international community have to support. It is time to move away from words and take decisive action.
Somali journalists killed in 2012:
Hassan Osman Abdi ‘Fantastic’, Abukar Mohamed Kadaf, Ali Ahmed Abdi, Mahad Salad Adan ‘Jarmal’, Farhan Jeemis Abdulle, Ahmed Addow Anshur, Abdi Malaq Jeylani ‘Marshale’, Yusuf Ali Osman, Mohamoud Ali Yare ‘Buneyste’, Liibaan Ali Nor, Abdisatar Dahir Sabriye, Abdirahman Yasin Ali, Hassan Yusuf Absuge, Abdirahman Mohamed Ali, Ahmed Abdullahi Fanah, Ahmed Saakin Farah Ilyas, Mohamed Mohamud Tuuryare, Warsame Shire Awale.