Human Rights Watch says that the lives of journalists in Somalia are being threatened by al-Shabab, a militant extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, and the Somali government, who are using violent tactics to intimidate them, threatening, as well as harassing and attacking journalists.

The Mogadishu director for the Somali television station Horn Cable, Abdiqadir Dulyar, says he lives in constant fear of being attacked, and sometimes, to not get targeted, he is forced to spend some nights at his office.

Somali journalists protest as they demand for the release of a colleague, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, in Mogadishu on January 27, 2013. Abdiaziz was reportedly arrested after reporting on a rape case allegedly involving government soldiers according to local media reports. Credit: Omar/Courtesy Reuters.

He also says that even receiving a simple text message terrifies him, since he has received numerous texted threats from Al-Shabab, saying that if he keeps doing what he does, they will kill him. According to the Human Rights Watch, journalists say they are stuck between the government’s jails and Al-Shabaab’s guns.

Everything is not what it seems

There are around 50 radio stations in Somalia, which makes it seem like the media in the country is working regularly, but they are actually being restricted about the information they give to the audience.

For example, journalists got phone calls from militia leaders that told them not to report an ongoing situation in Somalia, which is that Sufi militia group controls two key towns in Somalia’s central region, but the government wants to create a federal state there. Those who ignored the orders were arrested by the militia, and the radio stations were temporarily shut down because they cannot report on critical issues.

Why does the government not want journalists to report?

According to Human Rights Watch, what the government mostly does not want the world to know is about their fight against Al-Shabaab, especially when the extremist group attacks their troops, because they do not want journalists to report how many soldiers died, or the extent of the attacks. And every time a journalist tries to cover the story, the government threatens them saying that there will be consequences.

The censorship is causing reporters to drop the entire story, being an editor’s request, because it cannot be told how it happened.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CTP), since the collapse of the central government in Somalia, in 1992, a total of 59 journalists have been killed, which is why the country is considered the most dangerous for journalists.

2012 has been the deadliest year so far, having 18 journalists killed in this year. Since 2014, four journalists have been killed in apparent targeted attacks, and at least six have survived assassination attempts. In 2015, other three journalists were killed.

Most of the journalists that died have been shot, and others have been targeted with car bombs.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed earlier this year, a media law that gives government officials a wide range of powers to arrest and harass journalists for disseminating false information, which has caused controversy.

Human Rights Watch is trying to call on the government to allow journalists to air their views and opinions, as well as allowing safe and open reporting.

Source: Human Rights Watch