Threatened for years by both the Islamist al-Shabab group and circles within the government, a Somali radio station has lost its third director since 2007.
Hassan Osman Abdi, who headed Radio Shabelle, was stopped by two men as he was entering the gate of his home on Saturday. He was shot several times, according to Mohamed Moalim, a relative.
The 29-year-old father of three was the most recent of the station’s five journalists killed for doing his job in one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters.
“We have been targeted because of our uncensored editorial policy,” Mohamed Amiin Adow, a representative for the station, told Al Jazeera. “We try to expose every part of Somalia of what they are doing to the public. We are targeted for our independence.”
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) strongly condemned the incident.
“We send our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and friends … while we call the Transitional Federal government to investigate the shooting to death of the journalist,” Mohamed Ibrahim, NUSOJ secretary-general, said.
Going by previous murders, there is little hope that Abdi’s killers will be booked for their crime. There has been no investigations into the past killings, Adow said.
“[Abdi] and the rest of our staff received threats daily from al-Shabab [and said] that we are spreading propaganda. Al-Shabab has banned our frequency in their areas of control.
“Absolutely, we are sure it is al-Shabab,” he said.
The private station, one of the largest in Somalia, was set up in 2002 outside Mogadishu. But after a series of threats and after being forced to stop playing music by al-Shabab, they moved closer to the city’s airport, where they resumed broadcasting as usual.
The recipient of several journalism awards, including the 2010 Press Freedom Prize, the station has 80 reporters across the country, funded by advertisement revenue and aid from relief organisations.
About a hundred of their reporters have fled the country, Ali Abdi, Shabelle’s head of international relations, said upon receiving the award in Paris.
“But we will not be intimidated. We are determined to continue our struggle for independent journalists and respect for human rights,” he said.
The station has also been targeted by the government for its attempts to publicise corruption cases.
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“We focus on the government, especially for corruption. Sometimes we find threats from them. The government threatens to arrest our journalists,” Adow, the station representative, said.
In 2007, the government arrested 19 of its journalists for questioning. The same year, government forces reportedly besieged and fired on the station.
Radio Shabelle has had to hire 10 private security guards because of security risks and journalists on assignment are often accompanied by the guards.
Media rights campaigners have repeatedly expressed concern about the difficult conditions that journalists work under in Somalia.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused the transitional government of intimidating and persecuting reporters.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), reported in December that 25 journalists had been killed in Somalia since 2007.
“Violence against journalists in Somalia is sustained by impunity for those responsible,” RSF said.