World Press Freedom Day: Somali journalists risk lives to report news

Despite constant threats from Al Shabab, as well as government forces, Somalia's journalists remain resilient and push for a Somali free from oppression.

For many Somali journalists, safety is a daily concern. And yet, that doesn’t stop some from pursuing their passion for journalism.

Abdiqadir Dulyar says he lives in constant fear of being attacked. Mr. Dulyar who is the Mogadishu director for the Somali television station Horn Cable, is often forced to spend some nights at his office, for fear of being targeted. He says that receiving a simple text message terrifies him. He has received numerous texted threats from the Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists group Al Shabab.

“Keep doing what you do, and we shall come to give your well-deserved award (death),” read one message sent by the group, the Associated Press reports.

Yet Dulyar continues to do what he does with the hope of making a difference for Somalia.

Somali journalists work in one of the most hostile environments in the world. In addition to threats of violence and even murder, journalists also face intimidation and violence from government security forces.

And though journalists are targeted on a daily basis, perpetrators often aren’t held accountable, and there’s generally a lack of government protections for journalists, the Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday, the World Press Freedom Day.

Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Since 1992, after the collapse of the central government, a total of 59 journalists have been killed, according to Committee to Protect Journalists (CTP). The deadliest year was 2012, when 18 journalists were killed. And in 2015, three journalists were killed, including Hindia Haji Mohamed, a widow of another slain journalist. Ms. Mohamed worked for a state-run broadcast, and was killed in a car bombing last December, an attack Al Shabab claimed responsibility for.

The group has been terrorizing the country since 2006, and although they have been pushed out of Mogadishu and other major cities by African Union troops, they continue to execute attacks, preventing any nation-building efforts.

Even in Mogadishu, where the group has been driven out, journalists aren’t safe, as they often face threats from the state’s security forces. The government is against coverage of certain topics, including Al Shabab's terror activities, and restrains any reports that detail the extent of attacks perpetrated by the group.

“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,” Dulyar, who is a broadcast journalist, told the AP.

But all hope is not lost. Last week the government convicted a man responsible for the death of five journalists – a sign of hope that the government is taking steps to protect journalists. The convicted man was a former journalist who had joined Al Shabab as the group’s press liaison and was known to have threatened reporters he felt did not portray the insurgents in a favorable light.

“No matter what, I shall keep working,” Dulyar said. “I shall remain being a messenger for the whole world.”

This report contains materials from the Associated Press.

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