Reporters Without Borders alerts the international community to the collapse of the security situation in Somalia and the living hell its journalists are having to endure as a result of a major offensive launched on 23 August by the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab against government troops and the soldiers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
In addition to the many casualties in the fighting, the offensive has also had a serious impact on the media and information.
“We voice our support for Somalia’s journalists and we appeal to the international community to give them help and solidarity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They need to be covering the suffering of the civilian population in the fighting raging in Mogadishu but they are unable to do so because it is too dangerous.”
The press freedom organisation added: “A journalist has just been killed by stray bullet while Al-Shabaab continues to try to control news and information by sowing terror and using local media to broadcast its hate messages and its calls for holy war.”
A journalist still in Mogadishu told Reporters Without Borders: “The media is facing increasing pressure at this moment and censorship is reaching its highest levels.” Heavy pressure has, for example just forced Radio Shabelle, Somalia’s leading independent radio station, to stop broadcasting its "Tartan Aqooneedka Shabelle" talk show.
Barkhat Awale, the 60-year-old manager of Radio Hurma, was fatally hit in the stomach by a stray bullet on 24 August while helping a technician to install a transmitter on the roof of the station, located at the “Kilometre 5” intersection in the government-controlled area of Mogadishu. He was the second media fatality in Somalia this year. The first was Radio Mogadishu journalist Sheik Nur Mohamed, who was killed on 4 May (see the 5 May release ).
Al Shabaab meanwhile seized control of Radio Holy Quran (IQK), an independent radio station, on 23 August and began using it to broadcast its propaganda.
Al-Shabaab and one of Somalia’s other leading Islamist militias, Hizb-Al-Islam, are on the Reporters Without Borders list of Predators of Press Freedom .
Dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting of the past few days. An attack on the Hotel Muna, which was claimed by Al-Shabaab, left around 30 dead including six parliamentarians.