Somalia, the information increasingly at risk

The new Impunity Index, issued Tuesday, has decreed that for the third consecutive year, Somalia has won the country's most unpopular primacy with the highest number of journalistic murders for which it is not was found guilty.

Women read newspapers in a Mogadishu market. Reuters/Feisal Omar
Women read newspapers in a Mogadishu market. Reuters/Feisal Omar

The special index called "Get Away With Murder" is made by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which since 2008 updates it annually to raise awareness of the issue of punishment for crimes against journalists. Non-profit organizationhas also launched a Global Campaign Against Impunity, calling for justice for journalists' murders, considered the most serious threat to freedom of expression in the world.

The list takes into consideration the countries that present more than five cases of crimes against media practitioners unresolved, a threshold that has been reached this year by twelve nations, seven of which are present in each edition of the ranking.

In the twelve countries that make up the Index, almost 80% of the homicides remained completely unpunished in the last decade (with reference to 31 August  2017), while only in 4% of cases the CPJ speaks of "Full Justice".

Immediately after Somalia, Syria and Iraq come, while two other African nations, South Sudan and Nigeria, respectively, are in the fourth and eleventh place respectively. In both countries there have been five cases of unpunishedmurder of journalists. The ranking distance between South Sudan and Nigeria is due to the fact that the list is compiled by calculating the number of unsolved cases, in relation to the percentage of the population in each country.

The CPJ report notes that in South Sudan the widespread climate of impunity with regard to crimes against journalists has determined that many information providers have been threatened, harassed and arrested. The report states that some of them have not been murdered for reasons related to their work, but of a different kind, such as ethnic rivalries. Juba's government has never responded to UNESCO's requests to provide a report on the situation of judicial investigations into killing journalists in the country.

The report highlights that in the last year in Nigeria, five journalists were killed by Boko Haram's extremists and by unknown assailants. Many cases of media attacks and arrests have also occurred in the African country, especially when dealing with scandals related to corruption and human rights violations.

An example is what happened last June to Charles Otu, editor of The People's Conscience and contributor of The Guardian, kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death, unless he stopped criticizing the Government of Ebonyi State.

The most critical situation in Africa is recorded in Somalia, which holds the little rewarding first place in the Impunity Index 2017. In the last decade, 26 cases of murder of journalists remained unpunished in the country, causing an impunity rate of 198%. Since the beginning of the year, no progress has been made in investigations into the latest killing of local journalists.

Last February, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed had announced his support for media freedom, but he still failed to secure justice for journalist assassins. Meanwhile, contrary to international human rights standards, Somalia has sentenced to death three people accused of killing journalists.

Among Somali journalists who have recently disappeared, the report remembers Abdiaziz Mohamed Ali Haji, Radio Shabelle's reporter, who was fired on an ambush on 28 September 2016 in Mogadishu by two men on a motorcycle. Young Ali was assassinated as he was going to visit parents and according to human rights organizations, both the al-Shabaab'sIslamic extremists and the government had "reasons" to deal with him.

Radio Shabelle is the press affiliation who has lost the largest number of journalists across the country, and none of them had justice for the inefficiency of the investigative and punitive machine, unable to protect information providers.

Three months before killing Radio Shabelle's reporter, always in Somali capital, was killedSagal Salad Osman, a young journalist and college student, who worked for Radio Mogadiscio, a government-run broadcaster.

Like in the vast majority of murders of Somali journalists, including Sagal's assassins, no trace. An absolute impunity that has long sparked a cycle of violence and fear, greatly restricting press freedom in the Horn of Africa.


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