Somalia’s journalists under fire – Amnesty

The East African nation has long been seen as one of the riskiest places to work as a journalist, with the twin threats of reporting on conflict and draconian restrictions imposed by the authorities.

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 14, 2020 – Journalists in troubled Somalia are “under siege,” facing bombings, beatings, attacks and arrests, rights group Amnesty International said Thursday.

The East African nation has long been seen as one of the riskiest places to work as a journalist, with the twin threats of reporting on conflict and draconian restrictions imposed by the authorities.

But now the situation is getting even worse, Amnesty said, in a report titled “We live in perpetual fear”, detailing what it called a “dramatic deterioration” in press freedom.

“A surge in violent attacks, threats, harassment and intimidation of media workers is entrenching Somalia as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist,” Amnesty said, calling on the government to take action.

Journalists face threats on all fronts, from attacks by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-allied Al-Shabaab fighters, to the internationally backed authorities.

However, Somalia’s government rejected the report, calling it a “fabrication” and “ludicrous allegations”, and accusing journalists who had fled the country of making up stories to secure asylum abroad.

“We find no concrete evidence worthy of accusing the Federal Government of Somalia of abuses against journalists,” the Ministry of Information said in a statement.

At least eight journalists have been killed since 2017, and at least eight more fled the country fearing for their lives, the report said.

“From barely surviving explosive-wired cars, being shot, beaten up and arbitrarily arrested, journalists are working in horrifying conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s head for eastern and southern Africa.

“This crackdown on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom is happening with impunity. The authorities hardly investigate or prosecute perpetrators of attacks on journalists,” Muchena said.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Somalia 164th out of 180 countries on its global list of press freedom, with more than 43 journalists killed over the past decade.

 

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