International Press Freedom Awards
Mustafa Haji Abdinur is among the very small number of independent journalists still working amid devastating violence in Mogadishu. In 2009 alone, six Somali journalists were murdered or killed in crossfire.
As a correspondent for Agence France-Presse and editor-in-chief of the independent radio station Radio Simba, Abdinur faces danger every day. He reports from Mogadishu’s once-bustling Bakara Market, which has become a stronghold of insurgents in the conflict-ridden city.
In 2007, with the help of a business partner, Abdinur started Radio Simba, which reaches more than 2 million listeners across southern and central Somalia. His work for AFP and several other Western media outlets has made him a target of both insurgents and government authorities. He was beaten by insurgents after assisting two Japanese journalists with the Kyoto News Agency, and arrested by government security forces for airing an interview with a leader of the militant group Al-Shabaab. Despite receiving death threats that prompted his family to relocate, Abdinur has insisted on staying in Mogadishu to report on the unfolding Somali crisis.
In the name of Allah the most merciful, the most gracious.
It is a great honor for me to stand here tonight as the first Somali journalist to win this award. By recognizing me, you are also recognizing the courage of the small band of working journalists still in Somalia. And you are paying tribute to those reporters who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their profession.
One such was my friend, Muktar Hirabe. How he would have loved to be here tonight to see some of the biggest names in journalism in the world honoring a young reporter from Mogadishu. Muktar not only ran one of the few independent radio stations in Mogadishu, he was also a mentor to me and many other Somali journalists.
In June this year, I heard firing. I ran out of my office with my small camera to see what happened. I saw a lifeless body lying in the street in a pool of blood. A colleague told me it was Muktar. I froze. I couldn’t move, forwards or backwards. Eventually I returned to the office but I could do nothing. It was not even safe enough for me to attend his funeral or extend condolences to his family.
Just one month earlier, another friend of mine had been killed. Abdirisak Warsame was even younger than me. Just twenty-four years old. Abdirisak was caught in crossfire after leaving his radio station in Bakara Market, which has become a killing field in Mogadishu. This year alone six of my colleagues have been killed in Somalia. That makes it the deadliest country in Africa for journalists. No one has had to answer for their deaths.
For my entire life, I’m twenty-seven years old, there has been no effective central government in Somalia. It’s a failed state. That makes it so dangerous to be a reporter because there is no police, no army, and no court system to back you up if you get in trouble. That is why, ladies and gentlemen, your support is so vital to me, and to my courageous colleagues who every day brave the bullet-scarred streets to bring you news of our unending civil war.
There used to be more of us. But the intensity of the war has forced so many to flee. In the past two years there has been an exodus of journalists. There are more Somali reporters in Nairobi than Mogadishu. Needless to say, it’s too dangerous for foreign journalists to cover what is now one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Several foreign journalists have been kidnapped in Somalia in the last few years and two – a Canadian and an Australian journalist – are still in captivity.
Friends, if a journalist is killed the news is also killed. We need your support now more than ever. Please don’t forget us.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this award which I accept for all those who put their lives on the line for our profession everyday, and for those who have paid for the privilege of being a journalist with their own blood. Thank you.