Following the death of four Somali journalists over a 24-hour period last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) requested the new Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, investigate their deaths.
Last Thursday, three journalists were killed and five wounded after two suicide bombers exploded in a restaurant in the Hamer Wayne district in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Fifteen were killed in total. The following day, a journalist was shot dead in the Yaqshiid district, Mogadishu.
HRW said 13 media workers have been killed since December 2011 in government-held areas, urging the government to do more to protect them.
“Somalia’s journalists long topped the lists of targets by all sides during the country’s brutal civil war,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy director of the HRW Africa division. “The new Somali president can act to end this horrific pattern by ordering prompt and serious investigations into these killings.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 46 journalists have been killed in Somalia in direct reprisal for their work since 1992, a quarter died this year alone.
On Sunday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) director general, Irina Bokova, said she was “horrified by the sudden upsurge of violence targeting the media in Somalia,” and urged Somali authorities “to do everything in their power to bring the perpetrators of these outrageous crimes to justice.”
HRW said Somali journalists played a key role in reporting of abuses by “warring parties” and “have paid a heavy price for their efforts.” They say militant groups and the government deliberately targeted journalists and restricted their freedom of expression.
In their report, HRW urged the international community to pressure the government. “Countries that are truly committed to new beginnings in Somalia should make tackling the horrific killings of journalists a priority,” Lefkow said. “Somalia’s international partners should press the new government to carry out credible investigations into these killings and offer the government help in doing so.”
According to statistics provided by CPJ, more media personnel have been targeted this year in Somalia than ever before. The only country that currently outranks Somalia in terms of journalist deaths per year is Syria, with 18 killed for their work, according to CPJ.