On Tuesday evening, veteran Somali journalist and media rights activist Ismail Sheikh Khalifa was critically wounded when a bomb planted in his car exploded in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Ismail was leaving the TV studio where he hosts a weekly show, when the bomb detonated remotely. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Since August 2016, 10 journalists and media workers have been killed in Somalia, which tops the Committee to Protect Journalists Global Impunity Index on countries where those who kill journalists escape prosecution. The Somali authorities seldom investigate cases of killings or attacks on journalists.
At least three journalists have been killed this year. On October 27, two unknown gunmen shot dead Abdullahi Mire Hashi, a journalist for Darul Sunnah radio, on the outskirts of Mogadishu. On September 19, Abdirizak Said Osman, a photojournalist for Codka Nabada radio, died of injuries sustained in a knife attack by unknown persons in Galkayo, Puntland. On July 26, a police officer shot dead Abdirizak Kasim Iman, a cameraperson for a privately owned television station, at a checkpoint in Mogadishu. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), the Somali Police launched an investigation, but no one was arrested or prosecuted in connection with the attack.
What these attacks on journalists have in common is they are not followed up by any credible investigations, entrenching a climate of fear and leading to self-censorship among the media.
Under international human rights law, Somalia has a responsibility to protect journalists and media workers against attacks and threats by its security forces and non-state armed groups, including Al-Shabab and clan militia.
The Somali federal government and its international partners should tackle Somalia’s culture of impunity if they are serious about protecting the media and freedom of expression. The attack on Ismail Sheikh Khalifa should get the attention of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who should ensure that the police have the resources, political will, and expertise to conduct prompt, credible, and rights-respecting investigations into these and other attacks on press freedom.