Today marks the seventh day that four media workers have been held hostage by an unknown group roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of Mogadishu. Freelance journalists Amanda Lindhout, Nigel Brennan, and Abdifatah Mohamed Elmi, along with driver Mahad Clise, were returning from interviews with Somali refugees at Celasha Biyaha when they were kidnapped along the Afgoye-Mogadishu road. The Australian Federal Police and Australia and Canadian diplomats are working with the Somali government to help with hostage release efforts.
A 37-year-old Queensland native, Nigel Brennan had arrived in Africa only a week before the August 24 kidnapping, his family reported. Brennan had traveled to many international destinations as a freelance photojournalist for numerous local and regional Australian publications. Earle Bridger, who taught Brennan at Griffith University in Queensland, recalled him as “an ideal student” who was confident about pursuing his dream to be a freelance journalist. Amanda Lindhout, 26, a Canadian, did freelance work for her local newspaper in Red Deer, Canada, and was a former freelance reporter for the Iranian news organization Press TV. Chris Gelken, one of Lindhout’s former colleagues at Press TV, recalls a time she was reporting in Baghdad as bombs exploded in the background. Abdifatah Mohamed Elmi is a freelance photojournalist who has worked for numerous media outlets in Mogadishu. He supplements his income by working as a fixer and translator for visiting foreign journalists. Elmi is no stranger to the dangers of working as a fixer; he had taken another foreign journalist to the same refugee camp last March.
All three journalists share a distinct vulnerability: they are freelance. Being freelance, no media outlet is directly responsible for their welfare in Somalia. These days, even major media outlets are forced to cut costs on foreign coverage and rely on freelance journalists to get the story from dangerous locations.
The most recent kidnapping in Somalia, according to CPJ research, involved French journalist Gwen LeGouil. He was abducted in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region in December 2007, but was released unharmed two weeks later.