Another murder in Somalia as HornAfrik director is killed

New York, February 4, 2009–The director of HornAfrik, one of Somalia’s leading radio and television stations, was killed by three masked gunmen in the Bakara Market area of Mogadishu on Tuesday afternoon, local journalists told CPJ. The assailants shot Said Tahlil repeatedly as he and six other senior journalists were walking to a meeting with members of the militant Al-Shabaab group. 

“We send our deepest condolences to Said Tahlil’s family and colleagues at HornAfrik,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Tom Rhodes. “Tahlil and other brave reporters in Mogadishu who continue to work under extremely dangerous conditions must be supported. We call on the new Somali administration make every effort to protect journalists.”

Tahlil had been summoned to a meeting with the Al-Shabaab militia group along with the directors and senior editors of several media houses, journalists in Mogadishu told CPJ. A journalist with Radio Shabelle suffered a minor injury fleeing the scene, local journalists told CPJ.

Local journalists told CPJ that Al-Shabaab had disapproved of local media coverage of the recent Somali presidential elections. Al-Shabaab, among other groups, challenged the legitimacy of the election and did not take part. A spokesman for Al-Shabaab told CPJ today that his group was not behind Tuesday’s murder and said it had asked journalists to help them identify the attackers.

Tahlil, believed to be in his early 50s, was appointed director of HornAfrik after its founder, Ali Sharmarke, was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Mogadishu in August 2007. The popular director was best known for his Friday news program in which he discussed the week’s top issues. Tahlil is survived by his wife and seven children.

HornAfrik went off the air on Tuesday; it has not announced when it will resume broadcasting. Other stations in Mogadishu aired verses from the Quran throughout the day on Wednesday.

Somalia, embroiled in civil conflict for most of the past two decades, is one of the deadliest places in the world for the press. Since 2007, 11 Somali journalists have been slain.

Tahlil is the second Somali journalist killed this year and the fourth HornAfrik journalist killed since 2007. On January 1, Radio Shabelle journalist Hassan Mayow was shot dead in Afgoye, a town just outside of Mogadishu.