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Attacks on the Press in 2003 - Somalia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2004
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2003 - Somalia, February 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c566b913.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Somalia has had no effective central authority since the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. A peace agreement in 2000, which led to the installation of the weak Transitional National Government (TNG) in the capital, Mogadishu, fueled the revival of independent media, including local radio stations, newspapers, and Internet sites. Somalia's high rate of illiteracy means that radio continues to be the most effective form of communication.

Local journalists said the biggest problem they face is violence. It makes objective coverage of all Somali territories almost impossible, they say, and puts reporters at constant risk. For example, on January 24, journalist Abdullahi Madkeer, of Democratic Media Concern (DMC) Radio, was accidentally shot in the stomach by a faction of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) while covering the reopening of Baidoa Airport in the southwest. The airport had been closed for months because of fighting between rival RRA factions. According to Somali journalists' organizations, militia members fired on the crowd at the airport to protect a cargo of khat, a narcotic plant. Madkeer was taken to the hospital, but doctors refused to operate on him because he was HIV-positive. He died later that day.

Hornafrik, a well-respected Mogadishu-based radio station founded in 1999, said it was forced off the air on January 10 when militiamen stormed its offices. Journalists said the takeover stemmed from a Hornafrik news item that quoted a book alleging that businessman Mohamed Daylaf had financial ties with the militant Islamic group Al-Ittihad al-Islamia. The siege ended later that night, after local elders intervened to mediate between the gunmen and the station's staff.

Somalia is still fragmented into rival fiefdoms, with some areas enjoying relative stability and security, while others remain subject to lawlessness and outbreaks of fighting. Peace talks involving the TNG and faction leaders that began in Kenya in October 2002 raised hopes of reunification, but the negotiations have made little progress and were ongoing after more than a year. The self-declared Republic of Somaliland has refused invitations to join the talks.

There is at least some authority in Mogadishu, in Somaliland in the northwest, and in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland. Unfortunately, authorities in these regions have shown a tendency to repress the media and, in some cases, have directly threatened and harassed journalists.

For example, in April, TNG militia came looking for Internet journalist Omar Faruk Osman, according to witnesses, after the Web site he worked for in Mogadishu, Ruunkinet.com, posted a controversial photograph. The photo showed the heads of TNG President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan and several faction leaders pasted on the bodies of soccer players, with a caption presenting them as the "team" responsible for the failure of peace in Somalia. Faruk told CPJ he had received warnings before from the TNG's presidential staff. He went into hiding for several days, and on April 20, he fled to Kenya.

In Puntland, journalists' organizations said that the mayor of the city of Galkayo ordered the detention of Adan Nur Mohamed, editor of Yameyska Weekly Press, and Dahir Abdulkadir Ahmed, of the weekly Bulsho, after they published an article about the allegedly corrupt sale of state property by a local politician. On August 23, authorities detained the journalists for about 30 hours and then released them.

In Somaliland, authorities maintain a tight grip on the broadcast media, with state-owned Radio Hargeisa still the only station allowed to carry news. Private radio remains banned, pending the continually delayed adoption of licensing regulations.

Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 but has not obtained international recognition. Somaliland has managed to maintain relative peace and stability in recent years and in 2003 held its first multiparty presidential elections. The election results were contested, with incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin declared the winner by only 80 votes. The authorities' control of the broadcast media helped the ruling party during the elections by ensuring that the majority of the population received pro-government news.

Somaliland authorities have also moved against critical print content. On October 20, police detained Hassan Said Yusuf, editor of the daily newspaper Jamhuuriya, for nine hours in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, and accused him of publishing information that was "not good for the government."

In early July, the Somaliland government tabled a new press law that would, according to the independent research and analysis organization International Crisis Group, proscribe media "interference" in politics, religion, or culture; impose an annual tax on journalists; assign responsibility for the admission of foreign journalists to an interministerial committee; and permit the courts to order the temporary suspension of media licenses. The Somaliland Journalists Association has strongly protested the bill.


2003 Documented Cases – Somalia

JANUARY 10, 2003

Hornafrik
HARASSED, CENSORED

Militiamen allegedly hired by wealthy local businessman Mohamed Daylaf stormed the offices of the private radio and television broadcaster Hornafrik in the late afternoon and forced the station's staff to switch off all equipment and stop broadcasting.

Journalists at the station said the takeover stemmed from a news item Hornafrik had recently broadcast that quoted a book by an Ethiopian scholar who alleged that Daylaf had business relations with the militant Islamic group Al-Ittihad al-Islamia. The U.S. government has said that the group has links to al-Qaeda.

Hornafrik journalists said Daylaf also has close relations with Somalia's interim president, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, who has had tense relations with the station at times and may have authorized the closure.

The takeover of the station's offices ended later that night, after local elders intervened to mediate between the gunmen and the station's staff.

JANUARY 24, 2003

Abdullahi Madkeer, DMC Radio
KILLED – CONFIRMED

Madkeer, a journalist with DMC Radio, was accidentally shot in the stomach by members of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) militia while covering the reopening of Baidoa Airport in the southwest of the country, according to the Somali Journalists' Network (SOJON) and the Action Alert Group, a press freedom organization. He was taken to a hospital and died that day after doctors refused to operate on him because he was HIV-positive.

The shooting occurred while militia belonging to the RRA faction of Shaykh Adan Madobe fired on the airport crowd to drive them back from an aircraft with a cargo of the narcotic khat. The airport had just reopened after months of war between rival RRA factions in the region.

SOJON quoted Madkeer's father as saying that there has been no investigation into his son's death because of civil war and lawlessness in Baidoa Region. According to SOJON, Madkeer's death has left his family destitute.

Madkeer's station, DMC Radio, was later forced to close after local fighters from RRA factions requisitioned its offices.

APRIL 16, 2003

Omar Faruk Osman, Ruunkinet.com
THREATENED

Faruk, Mogadishu correspondent for Ruunkinet.com, a London-based Web site featuring news and commentary on Somalia, was hunted by militia of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in connection with a photograph posted on the site on March 26, according to local journalists' organizations. Faruk is also secretary-general of the Somali Journalists' Network (SOJON).

Faruk told CPJ that he had received warnings from the TNG presidential staff about the photograph, which featured the faces of TNG President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan and various warlords pasted onto the bodies of football players and a caption saying this was the "team" responsible for the failure of peace in Somalia. Faruk said he had received previous warnings from TNG staff, notably after a BBC interview on September 29, 2002, during which he criticized a new draft Press Law and called the TNG weak.

On April 16, friends called Faruk to say that TNG militia had come looking for him several times, at the offices of both SOJON and the Xiddiga Xamar (Xamar Star) newspaper, where he went frequently. Friends warned him he was in danger, and he went into hiding in north Mogadishu early on the morning of April 17. According to Faruk, TNG militia continued hunting him, and he escaped to Nairobi, Kenya, on April 20.

JUNE 25, 2003

Makahil Rashid Barre, Shabele Radio
ATTACKED, HARASSED

Reporter Rashid, of Shabele Radio, was arrested in the port town of Merca and detained by authorities of the Transitional National Government (TNG). His detention came after the station aired a June 23 report by Rashid about the destruction of a market in Merca by TNG military forces, according to the management of Shabele Radio and the Somali Journalists' Network.

Sources at Shabele Radio told CPJ that TNG military forces threatened Rashid with death if he reported again on military affairs. The radio's management also said that Rashid was tortured and beaten while in detention. Rashid told CPJ he was detained for about eight hours and released the same day. He was freed after Radio Shabele management and local residents demanded his release. However, Rashid said he has left Merca Region because he fears for his life.

AUGUST 23, 2003

Dahir Abdulkadir Ahmed ("Aflow"), Yamayska
Adan Nur Mohamed, Bulsho
HARASSED

Aflow, of the weekly Yamayska, and Nur, of the weekly Bulsho, were detained by police in Galkayo, in the autonomous region of Puntland, and jailed for about 30 hours. The detention came after Yamayska published an August 19 report on the corrupt sale of state property by a local official, according to the two journalists and local press freedom groups. Aflow wrote the article, which Nur subsequently reprinted in Bulsho. Local journalists believe that the mayor of Galkayo, Hussein Jama Yabaq, ordered the detention.

Aflow told CPJ that he was roughed up during detention. He said the two journalists were not given any reason for their detention, and that they were released after pressure from Puntland officials and from the local community. Journalists in Galkayo say the mayor is still threatening to close Yamayska, according to the Somali Journalists' Network.

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