New York, February 18, 2020–Somali broadcast journalist Abdiwali Ali Hassan was shot several times near his home in the town of Afgooye, about 30 km (19 miles) outside Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on February 16, and died on his way to the hospital, according to three local media organizations, his colleagues, and news reports.
Abdiwali, nicknamed “Online,” was a freelance correspondent for the London-based Universal TV and local Radio Kulmiye in the conflict-ridden Lower Shabelle region, the site of attacks by the militant group Al-Shabaab. The 25-year-old journalist was returning from work at about 6 p.m. when two gunmen shot him several times in the head and chest, according to a statement from the Federation of Somali Journalists, another from the Somali Journalists Syndicate, and a Facebook post by the Somali organization Human Rights Journalists.
All three organizations said the journalist had been receiving anonymous threats. Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, secretary general of the Federation of Somali Journalists, said that Abdiwali died on his way to a hospital in Mogadishu.
Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, secretary general of the Somali Journalists Syndicate, said the journalist’s last report for Radio Kulmiye focused on Somali National Army operations in several districts in Lower Shabelle targeting locations held by Al-Shabaab. In its statement, the Human Rights Journalists organization said no group had claimed responsibility for the killing.
“We urge the government of Somalia to ensure that the safety of local journalists becomes a priority and that an independent investigation is launched to find Abdiwali Ali Hassan’s killers,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Somalia’s failure to take action when journalists are attacked or threatened has allowed impunity to thrive. Authorities must send a clear message that crimes against the press will no longer be tolerated.”
Universal TV editor Abdullahi Ahmed Nur told CPJ via messaging app that Abdiwali had received threats over several months for his reporting. Two weeks before his death, unidentified people posted the journalist’s photo on a Facebook page saying that “Abdiwali was killed,” said Abdullahi, adding that the post was later deleted.
Armed men on at least two occasions came to the journalist’s house, looking for him, Abdullahi said. Al-Shabaab militants had entered Abdiwali’s home last year when it had captured most villages in Afgooye district looking for the journalist, “but luckily he was not at home,” he said. In mid-2019, the journalist had left his home town for Mogadishu fearing for his life, after he was threatened with death by unknown callers, said Abdullahi.
“I am not sure if these were Al-Shabaab or others. Abdiwali always covered news about the conflict in the Lower Shabelle region and also did a lot of humanitarian news reporting including the displaced people in the region,” said Abdullahi.
“He personally told me that armed men visited his home one night and that they could not get him because he was not there. He did not know who these people were but his wife who was at the home confirmed that they were looking for Abdiwali.” Abdullahi added that Abdiwali had returned two weeks later thinking it was safe to do so.
On the day he was killed, the journalist was on assignment within Afgooye, said Abdullahi. “He told me that he wanted to cover the impact of the recent floods in the region and how it affected the local people and he was looking for people to interview for his story.”
Abdiwali had also recently covered the inaugural ceremony of a school in the Shalanbood district as well as the renovation of the district commissioner’s office, Abdullahi said.
CPJ tried to telephone the mobile number of the governor of Lower Shabelle, Ibrahim Adan Ali, as well as Minister of Information Mohamed Abdi Hayir Maareeye, but the calls would not connect. Text messages sent via messaging app after hours were not immediately replied to. Somalia’s deputy police commissioner, General Zakia Hussein Ahmed, did not immediately reply to a request for comment sent via messaging app.
For the fifth straight year in 2019, Somalia topped CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The 12th paragaph has been updated to correct the spelling of the Lower Shabelle governor’s name.