Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe was killed on Sunday. (NUSOJ)
Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe was killed on Sunday. (NUSOJ)

Fifth Somali journalist killed this year

New York, June 8, 2009–Following the attack by unidentified gunmen on two staff members of Radio Shabelle on Sunday that left one dead and one injured, the Committee to Protect Journalists called today for all sides in the ongoing conflict to allow journalists to carry out their work without fear of retribution.

Two gunmen opened fire on Radio Shabelle Director Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, above, and News Editor Ahmed Omar Hashi, shooting Hirabe in the head and killing him, and Hashi in the hand and stomach, according to international news reports. The two journalists were walking in the restive Bakara Market region of the capital, Mogadishu, when they were ambushed, Hashi told CPJ.

Hashi (also known as Tajir) is currently receiving treatment in Mogadishu but said he fears the gunmen may return to kill him. “Last night I couldn’t sleep,” he said “I am afraid they may come at any time to kill me. I keep remembering how they shot my colleague.” This is the second assassination attempt Hashi has survived. On February 4, he ran away from gunmen who shot dead the former HornAfrik director, Said Tahlil Ahmed.

“As the conflict in Somalia intensifies, journalists are increasingly targeted at unprecedented levels by insurgent groups,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Tom Rhodes. “We call on all those who are fighting in this conflict to stop targeting journalists and instead do their utmost to protect them. The international community must hold those who commit violence against journalists to account.”

The latest attack may have been due to false stories that claimed Islamist opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was killed or seriously injured during an intense Friday conflict that killed more than 120 people, according to wire reports. But some of Hashi and Hirabi’s colleagues said they believe insurgents are targeting Somalia’s leading independent radio stations in an effort to control the airwaves. Radio Shabelle is currently off the air since the majority of workers have either fled or are in hiding, Editor-in-Chief Addirahman Yusuf told CPJ.

Even at Hirabe’s funeral, journalists and family members were forced to flee the ceremony after mourners noticed four men with pistols had shown up, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists.

Hirabe, 48, was the third Shabelle journalist killed this year. He is survived by two wives and five children.

Somalia is the most dangerous country in Africa to work as a journalist, with five journalists killed this year, according to CPJ research.