About 20 journalists were killed in Somalia last year with most of the killers yet to be identified. A number of people who work in the media in Somalia migrate to neighbouring countries for fear of assassination.Mohammed Gawani, a Somali journalist living in Kenya recently attended an investigative journalism course in South Africa. In this interview with Daily Trust in Johannesburg, he says government has to investigate assault on journalists and prosecute perpetrators with a view to preventing further attacks. Excerpts:
May we know you?
My name is Mohammed Gawani, I work with the National Council of Somali Journalists, an association based in Mogadishu. It is a journalists watchdog with divisions in the country and with over 300 members from all over Somalia. We train journalists and monitor them. We try to portray the problems and challenges in the country as you may probably know that Somalia had no functional government for almost 22 years.
Do you practice your profession freely in Somalia?
Somalia is a hostile environment for journalists with over 50 journalists killed, 16 of them this year. Journalists are being intimidated, arrested and killed. It is the most hostile environment for journalists to work.
Why are journalists killed?
They talk about social issues such as corruption and challenges in the country. So each and every news item comes from certain group either the radical al-Shabab, government or business groups. If the news displeases other groups they will attack the reporters.
Did any group claim responsibility in the killing of journalists?
No group has accepted responsibility for killing a journalist apart from the extremist organization al-Shabab in some cases. They are powerful and they control certain regions in the country. They kill journalists. Now that the group is not as strong as before, they would not want any journalist to reveal their secret and those who do it risk death.
But al-Shabaab is still controlling some areas?
No, I can tell you they are losing ground; they are not as strong as before. The issue is that they are in the jungle and they have arms. Journalists don't have arms, so they can be killed at any time.
Source: Daily Trust