It seems there may be a campaign underway to rid Mogadishu of its independent media. Recent reports highlight the increasing harassment and intimidation of journalists in Mogadishu.
While dozens of journalists have been killed since late 2006, there has been a visible increase in the targeting of journalists this year. Thus far in 2009 , five journalists have already been killed – most recently Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, director of Radio Shabelle. Dozens more have fled Mogadishu after receiving death threats. According to Hamdi Kadiye, an executive member of the National Union of Somali Journalists, “We [journalists] are in a very difficult and dangerous situation. We are being forced to choose between reporting on what is happening and our lives.”
But why are journalists being targeted? According to Hamdi Kadiye, it is because the groups fighting, both the insurgents and pro-government forces, want to ensure there are no records of the crimes they are committing. Over the past month, fighting has overtaken Mogadishu, resulting in the displacement of 117,000 people since early May. According to UNICEF’s acting representative for Somalia Hannan Suleiman, it “is the most concentrated displacement of civilians the city has seen in years.” Even more worrying are U.N. reports of ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of boys – some as young as nine – as fighters on the front lines, and increasing reports of rape and sexual violence against women. These are the stories the fighters want silenced due to fears that media reports could be used as evidence against them in the future.
Silencing these reports would be a catastrophe for the Somali people. As fewer international journalists are able to travel to Somalia, it has fallen to the independent media within Mogadishu to continue reporting on the ongoing violence. Without their reporting, the world will know woefully little about the horrors facing the Somali people. Hamidi Kadiye put it best when he said, “If journalists left and the independent media ceased to exist, there would be no one to tell the story of those suffering.”