Somalia: “We live in permanent fear”

Violent attacks, threats, harassment – Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Amnesty International has documented the dramatic deterioration in the situation

Journalists work in Somalia under appalling conditions and  attacks against them usually went unpunished as the authorities never launched investigations.

Eight journalists murdered

In its new report entitled “We Live in Constant Fear”, the human rights organization has complained about a dramatic deterioration in freedom of expression and the press in Somalia since President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo took office in February 2017.

Media officials are the target of attacks by government institutions, it said. At least eight journalists have been killed in southern Somalia and in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in the north since 2017.

According to Amnesty, the case of the murder of 17-year-old television cameraman Abdirirzak Qassim Iman is somewhat different. A federal police officer killed him shooting him in the head in Mogadishu in July 2018. The perpetrator was sentenced to five years in prison in absentia. However, according to information from the human rights defenders, he hides in Galmudug and thus evades the judiciary. Eight reporters have been forced to leave the country since October 2018.

Censorship and bribery

Amnesty also documents cases of allegations of bribery of media companies by the Somali government in the report. Amnesty says, officials from the President’s Office paid bribes to media companies every month to prevent unwanted reports. A former head of media said: “I once got a call from an official from the President’s Office. I met him in a hotel. He gave me money and urged me never to write anything critical to the government.”

Facebook accounts monitored

According to Amnesty, the personal social media accounts of media professionals are also monitored. Reporters say they have been aggressively threatened by government officials to remove critical content.

Amnesty director Muchena appeals to Facebook not to be manipulated by the Somali authorities. Freedom of expression and the press should be protected, especially in view of the upcoming elections this year.

February 13, 2020

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