by Abdi Guled
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP)—Journalist Mohamed Bashir Hashi’s voice broke with emotion as he read a death threat sent to his mobile phone: “If God wills it, you will be the next apostate to be killed.”
|LIVING IN FEAR—Anchors at the Shabelle radio station broadcast a news bulletin in Mogadishu, Somalia Jan. 30. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
After gunmen killed Somali journalist Hassan Osman Abdi on Saturday, colleagues and friends said they were too scared to attend his funeral that day, since militants in Somalia have targeted such gatherings in the past. Abdi, a 29-year-old director of a radio station, was a father of three.
“Deciding to stay here is so discouraging,” Hashi, 23, said Saturday while sitting in a small room at the Shabelle radio station, where Abdi was a reporter. “We can’t even pay respects to our fallen colleague since al-Shabab is threatening us.”
Abdi’s death was the second targeted killing of a Somali journalist in less than two months. The attacks have sent waves of trepidation through Mogadishu’s media community.
“We sleep at the radio station because we can’t go home,” Muhyadin Hassan, the station’s editor, said Monday. After he decided to go home on Sunday, he said his wife called and told him two men seemed to be hanging out on the street close to their home.
“We don’t know why we are being targeted. You can’t know who is going to kill you,” Hassan said.
Shabelle is one of Mogadishu’s most popular stations. It frequently reports on government corruption, abuses by al-Shabab militants against civilians, extortion by government troops—all topics that can earn the reporters enemies.
The militant group al-Shabab appeared to claim responsibility for Abdi’s death, saying on its website that the killing would serve as a “lesson” to other journalists. Al-Shabab—which runs its own radio station—said Shabelle was an anti-Islamic station.
Reporters at Shabelle said Abdi’s phone had voice messages on it from callers claiming to be al-Shabab militants, who threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave his job.
After a series of journalists’ killings in 2009, Shabelle moved its station from the city’s Bakara market close to the government-controlled part of the city near the airport. Somalia was most dangerous for journalists in 2009, when nine journalists were killed, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
But now there have been two killings in just over a month. A man wearing a Somali government uniform shot dead Abdisalan Sheik Hassan, a journalist with Horn Cable TV, in December. Now journalists are starting to feel targeted again.
“We trusted the situation would improve but it’s getting worse now. Nowhere is safe,” Mu’awiye Ahmed, a producer and a photographer at the station, said. He vowed to continue working: “They can’t prevent me from my work.”
Somalia President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed called Saturday’s killing a senseless murder and a terrible tragedy. He asked the public to assist authorities investigating the case.
Mogadishu’s journalists union called for the government to bring suspects to justice.
Somali and African Union troops over the last year have largely pushed al-Shabab militants out of the city, which is far safer today than a year ago overall.
“We thought because of the change there will be a better deal for us in terms of security,” said Abdurrahman Warsameh, a reporter with the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “Because of the brutal killing of our friend Hassan it now seems that the nightmarish life that we thought ended is still continuing.”