On Sunday morning, Abdihamid Mohamed Osman, a technician and editor at Universal TV network, was driving to work in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, when a bomb planted in his car exploded. Abdihamid was taken to the hospital, where he is receiving treatment for serious wounds.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Somalia remains an incredibly dangerous place to be a journalist. Since 2014, at least 13 journalists have been killed in targeted attacks or while on reporting assignments. At least six journalists have survived assassination attempts. But only one survivor of the several I have spoken to was ever interviewed by the police afterwards, and none were aware of anyone being prosecuted for the attempts on their lives.
While previous Somali governments regularly condemned attacks on journalists, credible investigations never materialized. Human Rights Watch found that between 2014 and 2016, the federal government only investigated and prosecuted attacks on journalists blamed on the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab. No government official is known to have been disciplined – much less prosecuted – for attacks, threats, mistreatment, or the unlawful detention of journalists, despite evidence that this is happening.
In attacks allegedly carried out by Al-Shabab, the government relied on the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) to investigate – an agency that has no law enforcement mandate and stands accused of mistreating detainees and relying on confessions as its main source of evidence. Moreover, the handful of prosecutions that the NISA brought took place before the country’s military court, whose trials do not meet international standards.
This lack of credible investigations into attacks on journalists in Somalia creates enduring fear and self-censorship among the country’s press.
But Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, recently elected by the legislature, has the chance to change direction.
His government should ensure that Somali police take threats and attacks against journalists seriously, and have the resources, political will, and the expertise to conduct credible and rights-respecting criminal investigations into these and other politically motivated attacks.
Somalia’s journalists have shown enormous bravery. Their new president should take concrete action to help keep them safe.