Accountability for Attacks on Radio Shabelle and Other Media Workers in Somalia

H.E. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
President of the Transitional Federal Government
of the Republic of Somalia

3rd February 2012

Re: Accountability for Attacks on Radio Shabelle and Other Media Workers in Somalia

Excellency,

I am writing on behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), the secretariat to a network of over 75 human rights organisations in the sub-region, to commend your public condemnation of the murder of Hassan Osman Abdi, the director of Shabelle Media Network, and to urge the Transitional Federal Government to ensure a timely, independent and impartial investigation and that those responsible are held to account in a fair trial.

Witnesses report that Mr. Abdi was shot by five gunmen outside his home in the evening of 28th January 2012, and died on his way to hospital. The gunmen are said to have followed him home from his office.

This latest killing highlights the continuing and disturbing trend of violence against the independent media in Somalia. Two previous Shabelle directors, Bashir Nur Gedi and Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, were shot dead in similar attacks by unknown gunmen in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Radio Shabelle has faced frequent threats and attacks as a result of its independent reporting, and a number of its journalists have been killed in the course of their work. In the past five years, according to figures provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 20 journalists have died in Somalia as a direct result of their work.

EHAHRDP condemns the prevailing climate of impunity that allows such attacks to continue undeterred. Many journalists have been forced to leave the country for their own safety. The commitments on accountability made by the Transitional Federal Government in response to recommendations received during its Universal Periodic Review in 2011 are therefore essential and we look forward to seeing their urgent implementation.

In particular, EHAHRDP calls on the Government to fulfil its stated commitment “to do everything it can to conduct timely and impartial investigations into the killings and threats of violence against journalists and civil society actors and take all necessary measures to ensure their personal safety.”

EHAHRDP also welcomes the Government’s commitment to “continue its efforts to revise the draft media law to bring it in line with international standards and also to create an environment conducive to freedom of expression.”

The repeated attacks against media workers in Somalia underscore the need for urgent efforts on the part of the Transitional Federal Government to end impunity and to act to create a secure working environment – both physically and politically – for journalists and civil society actors. EHAHRDP therefore calls on the Government to:

Conduct timely, impartial and independent investigations into the killing of Hassan Osman Abdi and hold accountable the perpetrators of this and other attacks on media workers, while maintaining internationally recognised fair trial standards;

Publicly affirm the value of the work of human rights defenders, including journalists, in building a stable, democratic society in Somalia.

I thank you for your attention to these concerns and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue further.

Sincerely,

Hassan Shire Sheikh
Executive Director

cc. H.E. Ahmed Gabobe
Minister of Justice and Religious Affairs

H.E Abdisamad Mo’allim Mohamud Sheikh Hassan
Minister of Interior and National Security

Gen. Sharif Shekuna Mayee
Chief of Somali Police

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