Somali journalists carry the body of Abdisalan Sheikh Hassan of Horn Cable TV who was killed in December 2011. Fear of violence is one of the top reasons why journalists flee into exile. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)
Somali journalists carry the body of Abdisalan Sheikh Hassan. (AFP/Mohamed Abdiwahab)

Somali government should probe journalist’s murder

New York, December 19, 2011–Somali authorities must pursue all leads in investigating the murder on Sunday of a broadcast journalist who had reported receiving several recent threats. A gunman in a military uniform shot freelance reporter Abdisalan Sheikh Hassan, according to local and international reports.

Hassan, 38, was driving from the offices of Horn Cable TV to a press conference when the uniformed gunman intercepted the vehicle and shot the journalist in the head, according to the station’s director, Abdulle Haj Ali. A colleague in the car was not injured. The shooting took place about 4 p.m. in Mogadishu’s central district of Hamar Jajab. Hassan died after being taken to a local hospital, according to local journalists. Somalia’s Information Ministry issued a statement on Sunday saying that authorities were investigating.

“We condemn the heinous assassination of Abdisalan Sheikh Hassan,” CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said. “The Somali government must lead a thorough and transparent investigation and break a pattern of impunity for killers of journalists.”

Hassan, who also contributed to Hamar Radio and the Voice of Democracy radio station, told colleagues that he had received recent death threats via cell phone. A soldier also threatened Hassan in person on Saturday and Friday, according to one colleague who spoke with the victim on Sunday.

Hassan had covered a tense session of the Transitional Federal Parliament on Wednesday during which violence broke out between supporters and opponents of Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, local journalists told CPJ. The United Nations and African Union have expressed concern at the ongoing standoff in the chamber, according to news reports.

One journalist and one media support worker were killed in Somalia earlier this year as the country continues to be the region’s most dangerous for the press. With at least 10 unsolved murders of journalists in the last decade, Somalia has the worst rating in Africa and the second worst worldwide in combating deadly attacks on the press, CPJ’s Impunity Index shows.

“Hassan was a very tough, professional journalist who relayed very neutral coverage of both sides of the conflict,” Horn Cable TV Director Abdulle Haj Ali told CPJ. “I don’t suspect he had any vendettas and cannot understand why anyone would target such a professional and likeable journalist.” Hassan is survived by his wife and four children, including a newborn baby daughter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: References to Horn Cable TV have been modified from one word to two words in accordance with the spelling on the broadcaster’s website.