Aspiring Somali Journalists Face High Murder Rate

The country’s largest news outlet is home to a number of teenage journalists, many of whom sleep at the office in fear of being murdered for their reports.  

Posted: 06/03/2013 11:10 AM EDT
Journalist's Funeral in Somalia

Meeting deadlines and finding sources might concern most budding journalists. For the young journalists at Shabelle Media, Somalia’s largest news outlet, dodging murder attempts is a primary concern. The sleeping quarters and kitchen in the Shabelle office, provided for those too afraid to travel home, reveal their dire situation.

"I know it's very difficult ... because all my friends, they died," Hamdi Ali Ahmed, 20, told NPR. "Still now, I like journalism; I'm working [as a] journalist; my hobby's a journalist."

Often inexperienced, but eager, the Somali journalists — some as young as 15 — are being murdered at increasing rates. Two of the 20 confirmed international journalist murder cases in 2013 thus far were Somalian, one of whom was a Shabelle employee and the other a former Shabelle employee. In 2012, the country ranked number two with 12 murders on the Committee Protecting Journalists’ list of deadliest countries. Four of the 12 murdered were Shabelle journalists. A majority of those murdered covered war and politics.

Tom Rhodes, the East Africa representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, explained to NPR why Shabelle’s young journalists were being targeted more than others.  

"They're being killed for the kind of reporting they're doing. It's a biased, slander machine," said Rhodes. "I'd like to say it was because they're more adventurous, getting out there [to tell the hard stories], but it's not true."

Rhodes' sentiment echoed that of Ahmed, who claimed that he and fellow reporters were "ordered to report falsehoods against the owner's political enemies."

In addition to slander and propaganda allegations, others have also blamed Somalia’s legal system for allowing disputes to go unsettled and killers to go unpunished. Each of the 50 journalists murdered in Somali since 1992 occurred with complete impunity.

Last year, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed told local reporters a task force would be created to investigate all the murder cases involving journalists. The era of impunity must stop immediately, Mohamed told Somali press. A corresponding Human Rights task force was launched in February and will be issuing a public report, according to reports.

"There is no court that a person can go to report his anger," exiled journalist and National Union of Somali Journalist board member Mohammed Garane told NPR. "So he takes a pistol, and he kills the journalist."

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(Photo: Feisal Omar/Reuters)

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