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Daring to Report from Mogadishu
By MOHAMED ODOWA 06/03/2011
Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein 'Jeeky'
©Somalia Report
Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein 'Jeeky'

Somalia, which has not had strong functioning government in almost two decades, is listed as Africa’s deadliest country for journalists with 34 journalists killed since 1991, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Despite these killings and daily death threats, a few reporters remain in the country to provide the world with an inside view of the fighting that plagues Somalia.

In Mogadishu, journalists have to deal with the often-horrific events of warfare which are unavoidable when filing unbiased reports and in a city that has been at war for twenty years. This type of reporting, which can often cast clans, militias, and warlords in a very negative light, can attract reprisals, such as physical harassment, intimidation, and even arrest and, at its worst, torture and death.

Oftentimes, those militant groups being covered by the journalist may demand the reporter turn over their photographic equipment. This is usually due to the fact that these groups, “don’t want to let journalists take video or photos of their combat losses or document civilian casualties, whether intentional or through collateral damage,” according to a local journalist who spoke with Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity.

Al Qaeda affiliated Somalia terrorist group al-Shabaab is currently engaged in fighting against the African Union, and the Western-backed Somali government is increasingly intolerant to journalists and the idea of freedom of the press. For these reasons, many journalists have opted to flee to neighboring countries, justifiably concerned about their safety, should they be reporting on a militant group that takes issue with their reporting.

Despite these risks, some journalists have chosen to return to Mogadishu to continue their work in providing unbiased accounts of the ongoing conflict.

"I know it is surprise for some people to return from Stockholm, Sweden just to report from Mogadishu, but for me it is as a normal duty because I want to tell the truth about my people and it needs us to sacrifice,” said Abukar Albadri, a Somali freelance journalist reporting for The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Aljazeera English, and other major media outlets.

Abukar Albadri
©Somalia Report
Abukar Albadri
"When I am away from the country, I feel that I am in exile, missing the most awful events and abuses targeting the innocent people," he explained. “All I want is to update my people's situation to the entire world and record the violations against the people.”

“The violence against journalists motivated some media workers to turn away from their profession and stayed at home all the time sharing their destiny with their family’s while doing nothing for occupation,” former Somaliweyn editor Burhan Diini Farah told Somalia Report.

Burhan’s Station and other radio broadcasts included the popular HornAfrik radio had been seized by al-Shabaab insurgents, saying the seized stations will instead serve to broadcast pro-Islamic content. “I am still jobless since al-Shabaab took Somaliweyn Radio in the last year,” said Burhan. “To be an independent journalist inside Mogadishu and the south and central Somalia is a matter of detention or death.”

“As you may know, al-Shabaab accused many journalists of passing sensitive information about its operations in Somalia to Western governments. They also looted several media stations and had forced many journalists to flee the country after accusing them of espionage,” explained Burhan Diini.

Journalist Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein 'Jeeky', the director of Universal TV for their Mogadishu office, said, “I want to keep my role in media and it had never occurred to me to give it up. You know we want to bring the world to our people experiencing these frightful events first hand.”

Wearing a bulletproof vest, Ibrahim was shown on television as he was ventured out in Mogadishu war zones to video reporting. “I did it for the audience and people liked to see it,” he said.

Ibrahim told Somalia Report that he decided to leave Mogadishu for the neighboring capital of Nairobi, Kenya. "It was almost four months ago,” he said. “I want to remind you that some colleagues including myself are denied access to militia-controlled portions of the city, but are allowed to cover the government-controlled areas."

In June 2009, Ibrahim was arrested and tortured by al-Shabaab insurgents. He was later released and immediately sought refuge into neighboring countries.

"It's a very, very hard moment for all journalists. Despite the risks, we have a duty to report the truth," said Ibrahim proudly.

Editor's Note: Somalia Report's own correspondent, Muhyadin Ahmed Roble, was held by a militia in Hobyo. To read his terrifying account, click here.