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Journalist's murder highlights country's notoriety as most dangerous place in Africa for media

Hassan Osman Abdi
Hassan Osman Abdi

NUSOJ

The director of the leading private radio and television network in southern Somalia was murdered last week, report the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and other IFEX members. Hassan Osman Abdi, a senior journalist and director of Shabelle Media Network, was shot dead outside his home in Mogadishu on 28 January, after being followed by five men in a sedan, says NUSOJ.

Last October, Abdi was appointed director of the network, largely considered a leader in reporting on the political crisis in Mogadishu and government corruption. One of the network's media outlets, Radio Shabelle, is Somalia's most popular privately-owned radio station. It was awarded the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Prize in the "Media" category in 2010.

The station has been repeatedly harassed, threatened and attacked by security forces for its coverage, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Abdi was to be the Somali delegate at a regional training session organised by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) in Bujumbura, Burundi, in February 2012.

According to RSF, Mogadishu is one of the world's 10 most dangerous places for journalists, and Abdi is the third Shabelle Media director to be murdered. Bashir Nur Gedi was killed in 2007 and Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe in 2009.

"Violence against journalists in Somalia is sustained by impunity for those responsible. It is quite clear that Abdi was deliberately targeted. We call for a serious and impartial investigation that leads to the identification of his murderers," said RSF.

IFJ has urged the UN Special Representative to Somalia to call on the Somali Transitional Federal Government to punish Abdi's killers, help establish an independent investigation into press freedom violations and impunity, and initiate a full and open investigation into the involvement of police and government officials in the attacks against journalists and their organisations.

"We understand that Abdi was killed at his home in Madina district, which is situated in an area controlled by the armed forces of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG)," said IFJ president, Jim Boumelha, in his letter to the UN. "His killers seem to have stalked and assassinated Abdi before walking free and without even being noticed by government forces in the neighbourhood."

According to CPJ, Information Minister Abdulkadir Hussein condemned the murder in a statement and called the Shabelle Media Network "one of the most important and pioneering media houses serving the country." He also said police were investigating and would "not leave a stone unturned." The African Union offered to assist the government in its investigation, CPJ also reports.

NUSOJ's just-released 2011 annual report states that attacks on journalists "[are] not only politically motivated and systematic but also institutionalised." It notes TFG's role in the violence, as well as its failure to fight against impunity for crimes against journalists.

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