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Somalia: Farmajo fires at journalists, links some to Al-Shabaab

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The freedom for journalists in Somalia might be after all far from being realized, even with the recent appointment of a special prosecutor, who will look at atrocities that the reporters go through, and despite frequent assurances from President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo himself.

During a panel discussion on the country's upcoming elections on Saturday night, Farmajo fired warning shots at journalists accusing them of lacking knowledge and experience on matters journalism, in yet a statement that covertly exposes the strained relationship between members of the fourth estate and the restless executive.

Further, Farmajo accused some other journalists of being members of the terror group Al-Shabaab, which has been wreaking havoc in the country for over one decade now. This was the first time the president was attacking journalists in open in what could invoke questions about his commitment to freedoms of speech and association.

"Some of these reporters lack knowledge and experience on coverage of serious matters affecting our nation. We even have some who work closely with Al-Shabaab thus undermining our commitment for a better Somalia," he said in an address at Villa Somalia on Saturday.

It's just a few weeks ago when Farmajo also signed a controversial media law that reportedly undermines media freedom which has been a topical issue in Somalia. But the law also paved way for the appointment of a special prosecutor who looks unto some of the crimes targeting media in Somalia.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN Humans Rights boss had, however, welcomed the creation of the prosecution office which will now look unto specific cases. She urged all the five states to respect the rights of journalists in Somalia, a country that has struggled for stability in the last three decades.

"I am encouraged by last week’s decision to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the killings of journalists. It is essential that all States acknowledge and protect the right of their people to freely express their views," she said in a statement while calling for more robust reforms.

In a document released early this year dubbed "we live in perpetual fear", the human rights body observed that Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries for one to work as a journalist. Reports indicated that a number of them had been abducted, subjected to arbitrary arrests, jailed without getting a fair hearing, and at worst, killed.

Al-Shabaab and the Federal Government of Somalia were pointed out as the worst "threat" to the media. A number of reporters have also sought asylum elsewhere after being trailed or warned by authorities and Al-Shabaab, who have continued to impose Sharia law across the country.

Early this year, the international community accused the Somalia administration of victimizing journalists after the National Intelligence Security Agency NISA under Fahad Yasin linked VOA's Harun Maruf to the terror group. But since then, the agency is yet to prove the case or leave alone summoning the Washington-based journalist.