Written by: 
Ssebulime Richard

The practice of critical journalism and reporting in Somalia has become a difficult venture as it involves arrests, persecution or even death.

Somalia has maintained its first position as the most dangerous country for journalists in Africa, for the last eight years, and considered as one of the most dangerous places for journalists all over the world.

The situation in which journalists and media houses are operating has instead continued to worsen with at least two (02) journalists killed, Ten (10) injured, Eighty Four (84) journalists arrested and seven (07) media stations raided and shut down in 2022.

Some journalists who include: Mohamed Said Nur (Rissala TV), Isaq Rashid (5TV), Muhamud Sofeysane (5TV) and Qasim Ibrahim Adaan (Rissala TV) have been released but face intimidation from police officials. The Banadir police arrested these on 16th April 2023 after they were found covering a scene where Al- Shabab had made an attack.

Mohamed Ibrahim Isak the president of Somali Journalists Syndicate, one of the leading Non-Government organizations fighting for the freedom of journalists and media expresses his worry about the increasing impunity against journalists in the course of their duties, which aims at silencing the work of journalists. “The attacks against the press are at a very alarming rate in Somalia. Journalists across the country continue to be arrested, threatened, intimidated and imposed with vague directives,” Mohamed said.

He believes that the government needs to set-up a more democratic system that puts respect to human rights to enable a safe working environment for journalists and their work of delivering information to the public. “It’s important to make it clear that the threats, intimidation and abuse of power by individuals in the government system are a major violation against the human rights of journalists,” He added.

Somalia is known as one of the countries in Africa with dangerous terrorism groups led by the Al- Shabab. It is unfortunate though that the government and not these terrorist groups threaten the work of journalists in Somalia.  There has been a sharp increase in the arrests of journalists over the last four years from 53 journalists in 2019, to 56 in 2020, 65 in 2021 and 84 journalists in 2022.

Somali journalists Syndicate documented at least 10 journalists, three of whom are female who have fled the country into exile as pressure and threats from the authorities continued to mount and they felt that   Somalia was unsafe for them.

Hassan Salah a freelancer radio journalist believes that with the growing establishment of organizations fighting for the rights of journalists in Somalia including Bilan Media the first all-women media will help to curb the violations against journalists in the country. He however thinks a lot needs to be done to ensure a safe environment for journalists in Somalia. Journalism shouldn’t be treated with impunity, but rather be seen as a service to the people.

Impunity against journalists and media organizations does not only end at affecting local journalists but also other international media organizations face it as well. Many organizations in Somalia have been credited for advocating for a safe media-working environment in Somalia. Some of these organizations include: the US Embassy in Mogadishu, the International Press Institute, Amnesty International among others. These have on different occasions come out to criticize and ensure justice for journalists in their lines of duty.

In July last year, the Somaliland police in Hargeisa raided the British Broadcasting Corporation Media Action (BBC Media Action) offices and detained five staff members with no immediate explanations from the Somaliland authorities. This was later followed by the banning of BBC Somali service from operating in Somaliland, accusing it of losing its neutrality in programs and news on political issues.

Journalists like Ahmed Omar Nur, Khalid Mohamud Osman, Ismail Muse Mohamed, Abdikarin Mohamed Siyad among other journalists will forever remember the evil attacks by the Somali Police which left them nursing wounds while reporting at different scenes.

According to the Somali Journalists Syndicate report of 2022, Somaliland state ranks number one in activities of media violation followed by Banadir, Hirshabelle, Southwest, and Galmudug among others.