Press Freedom: Journalists Face Murders But Keep Working

Hassan Hanafi Haji, a former journalist accused of belonging to al-Shabab and involvement in the killings of five Somali journalists, is tied to a wooden post as he is prepared to be executed by firing squad, at a police academy in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Monday, April 11, 2016.  Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh / Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia — For Abdiqadir Dulyar, simply reading messages sent to his phone can send shivers down his spine.

His voice breaks as he reads a recent note: "Keep doing what you do, and we shall come to give your well-deserved award (death)."

Dulyar, the Mogadishu director for the Somali television station Horn Cable, said often the threats lead him to avoid going home and he stays at his office for weeks at a time. The 40-year-old journalist said his fear heightened last week after unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car carrying journalists working for his television station in Mogadishu, although no one was hurt.

Somali journalists frequently receive threats and although many have been killed, police rarely investigate or provide adequate protection to reporters, according to Human Rights Watch, which marked World Press Freedom Day Tuesday by issuing a report on the dangers faced by Somali journalists .


The deadliest country for journalists in 2015 was Syria where 14 were killed followed by France with nine deaths, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Seventy-two journalists were killed in 2015 and 10 have been killed so far this year.

For years Somalia has been one of the most dangerous countries for media workers, according to the CPJ. Fifty-nine journalists have been killed in Somalia since 1992, soon after a civil war broke out in this horn of Africa nation, according to the organization . The deadliest year for Somali journalists was 2012 when 18 were killed. In 2015, three journalists were killed, including Hindia Haji Mohamed, who worked for the state-run broadcasters and was the widow of a slain journalist. She died in December when a bomb blew up her car, an attack claimed by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab.

The murders of Somali media workers often happen in government-controlled areas that journalists generally consider safe, and reporters must watch their backs for attacks at all times. It does not help that they often face hostility from the government, said Human Rights Watch.

There are signs that the Somali government is providing better protection for journalists. Last month, the government executed a man convicted of assisting the murders of five journalists. A former journalist himself, the man had joined al-Shabab to work as their press liaison and was known to have threatened reporters he felt did not portray the insurgents in a favorable light. He was one of the few prosecuted by the Somali government, which been urged for years by rights groups to do more to protect journalists.

Despite relative stability in Mogadishu since the ouster of al-Shabab in 2011, journalists say they still feel unsafe due to attacks by the militants and threats from government officials. Although African Union troops have helped to push Islamist extremists out of all Somalia's major cities, the rebels still carry out numerous attacks, hampering the government's efforts to rebuild the country.

"There is the prospect of having a Somali free from oppression, but threats and intimidations against journalists continue and it is very grim – no group or government likes our work," said Dulyar, the broadcast journalist. Despite the dangers, Dulyar said he remains committed to journalism.

"No matter what, I shall keep working," he said. "I shall remain being a messenger for the whole world."

Story: Abdi Guled / Associated Press

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