Two Somali journalists injured in separate shootings

New York, November 18, 2009—Two Somali correspondents for international media outlets were injured in separate shootings, one in the northeast semi-autonomous region of Puntland, and the other in the capital, Mogadishu, according to local journalists and news reports.

In the Puntland city of Galkayo, northeast of Mogadishu, a police officer fired on the car of Mohamed Yasin Isak, a local correspondent of the Somali-language service of U.S. government-funded Voice of America, at a checkpoint in front of the regional governor’s office, according to Media Association of Puntland. Local journalists counted at least 15 bullets holes in Isak’s car. One shot struck the journalist in the upper arm, causing a minor injury.

Police commander Col. Muse Ahmed Muse Hasasi told local reporters that the unidentified officer fired because the journalist’s car was speeding and appeared suspicious, according to news reports. Speaking to CPJ, Isak denied the allegations. “Am I crazy? How can I drive high speed through a police checkpoint?” he said.

Hours before the shooting, local journalists told CPJ, Hasasi had come uninvited to a meeting of the local press and threatened Isak with unspecified harm. Journalists had gathered to discuss an incident on Monday where security forces assaulted several journalists and blocked others from attending a meeting of the local government about growing insecurity.

“We are alarmed by reports that police fired on Mohamed Yasin Isak’s car only hours after a police officer had threatened to harm him,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “We call on the authorities to investigate both the threat made against our colleague and the shooting at the checkpoint.”

Isak has been the target of arrest and censorship by the Puntland government since August in connection with his coverage of a spate of unsolved assassinations of public figures in the relatively peaceful Mudug region, according to local journalists. Isak told CPJ he feared for his safety but would continue working. “Journalism is my skill, it’s my job. It’s the one thing I know,” he said.

In Mogadishu, a bullet fired during skirmishes between Somali government forces and Islamist fighters struck Abdirahman Warsame, a correspondent of Chinese government- owned Xinhua News Agency, in the left arm, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists. Warsame was awaiting a friend in front of Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu’s Medina district, when the fighting began, the journalist later told CPJ. He said doctors could not extract the bullet lodged in his arm. As for pain, “I am fine,” he told CPJ.

“The shooting in Puntland and the wounding in crossfire in Mogadishu of Abdirahman Warsame underscore the risks taken by the small number of journalists still trying to bring us news from Somalia,” CPJ’s Mahoney said.