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Three journalists killed; bomber strikes at heart of country's future

Hundreds of Somalis marched the streets to protest the lethal suicide bomb in Mogadishu last week.
Hundreds of Somalis marched the streets to protest the lethal suicide bomb in Mogadishu last week.

via AP

A suicide bomber dressed as a woman blew himself up at a university graduation ceremony in Mogadishu on 3 December, killing three Somali journalists and at least 25 others, reports the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). This tragedy has spurred twenty-six IFEX members to join NUSOJ in a joint appeal for justice.

The explosion wrecked Hotel Shamo during a graduation ceremony for medical students from Banadir University, also killing three ministers from the Transitional Federal Government, says the joint action.

The killing of so many high-ranking officials shows how weak the government is, according to news reports. The insurgents are militarily tough but do not have wide support. However, "the government doesn't have a clue, doesn't have a plan, doesn't have anything," one adviser to the United Nations in Somalia told "The New York Times".

Radio Shabelle reporter Mohamed Amin Adan Abdulle, 24, and a cameraman for Al-Arabia TV, Hassan Zubeyr Haji Hassan, were killed immediately. Freelance fixer and cameraman Yaasir Mario also later died. Amin is the fourth Radio Shabelle journalist killed this year, report IFEX members.

Five other journalists were victims of the attack. Reuters photographer Omar Faruk and Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle, a reporter for Universal TV, are in critical condition in hospital. Mohamed Aweys Mudey from Somaliweyn Radio, Mohamed Abdi Hussein from Hurmo Radio and Khalid Maki Banadir of Universal TV were also injured.

News reports say the dean of Mogadishu's medical school and at least 10 students were killed, in a country with a dire need for doctors. The Shamo is located in the government-controlled quarter of the capital, and a base for the few Westerners willing to visit the city.

"We cannot cope with this level of violence anymore," a former Radio Shabelle journalist based in Mogadishu told Reporters Without Borders (RSF). "Most of my colleagues now want to stop working because it has become too dangerous."

The number of journalists killed in the country in 2009 has now risen to nine. The signatories to the IFEX joint action are calling on the international community to ensure the protection of Somali citizens, including journalists, who face terror and human rights violations when carrying out their work. The action also demands justice and is calling for an end to the large-scale impunity in Somalia. The African Union Mission for Somalia, the United Nations and the world community must act to restore security and stability and to ensure free expression in Somalia, says the joint action.

This long history of repression prompted more than 30 independent Somali media outlets to sign a joint declaration in November, calling for the establishment of a training and solidarity centre for reporters, says NUSOJ. The centre would document harassment, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and torture of journalists and collect evidence to challenge the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

Somali journalists also decided to form a media collective to help independent media disseminate news, reports NUSOJ. In order to limit the control of warring factions, several radio stations intend to share their news. A training program to develop the skills of media professionals is also a part of the capacity building plan.

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