Somali journalists held an emotional press
conference in Mogadishu
today at the Sahafi Hotel after Sunday's fatal shooting of the former director
of Shabelle Media Network. (Sahafi means "journalist" in Arabic.) Roughly
15 journalists from different news outlets announced they were suspending their
work because of security concerns. "We can no longer operate independently
and impartially, and our lives are in danger because of the chaotic situation
in our country," said a statement signed by the journalists, who were mainly
editors and producers at local radio and TV stations.
Since late 2006, dozens of Somali journalists have either been killed or forced into exile due
to the ongoing fighting in the capital. CPJ
helped former Shabelle Media Network journalist Baabul Nor leave Mogadishu in November
2007 after he survived gunshots, police raids,
Now in exile in Uganda, Nor told
CPJ about his former friend and colleague, Shabelle Media Network Director Mukhtar
Mohamed Hirabe, below, who was gunned down by armed men Sunday morning near the
station in Mogadishu:
"It was with a great sense of loss that I heard of the death
of my colleague Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe. I send my greatest sympathy and deepest
condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues, and my heart is truly
"Hirabe, former TV and radio director of Shabelle Media, had a dedicated
audience in Mogadishu
due to his balanced reports, programs, and stories. He was a kind, considerate
man who geared his stories to the concerns of the poor and the needy. In 2006,
he helped organize a Shabelle assistance program for orphans in Internally
Displaced Person camps in Mogadishu.
Well respected, he was also often the peacemaker when heated arguments arose
within the station.
"My former colleague began his career with Shabelle as a
correspondent reporting from Djibouti,
and covered the reconciliation conference in 2000 that formed the former Somali
government. In 2005, he came back to Somalia and started reporting on
the conflict in the capital. He covered a range of programs including politics,
business, and entertainment during his work at Shabelle.
"With such experience, Hirabe was nominated the director of Shabelle in late
2007 after his predecessor Bashir
Nor Gedi was assassinated and the station's former deputy chairman, Mohamed Amiin, fled to Sweden.
Journalists were literally trapped inside the radio station at the time as the
former government and insurgents battled next to the station in Bakara Market.
Up to 10 Shabelle staffers left the station for security reasons and death
threats; three of them were evacuated to Uganda with the help of CPJ.
"Hirabe's death reportedly appears to have been an assassination by Islamic
insurgents. I know that his passing will leave a void in the Somali media, in
the hearts of all those who knew him."
Radio Shabelle, one of
leading independent media companies in the country, has been broadcasting since
March 2003. The company launched a TV station earlier this year. Somalia
is one of the most dangerous places for the media to work in. Five reporters have
been killed this year--three from Shabelle--either as direct targets or caught in
the crossfire of fighting between different groups.