Interview: Media was hit bad in Somalia's worst terrorist attack

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By: Aisha Sidi Ahmed

Last week, 14 October 2017, the Somali capital Mogadishu witnessed the worst terrorist attack in the history of Somalia, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people; left hundreds wounded and destroyed dozens of buildings.

One journalist was amongst those killed in the bloody attack, while others were wounded and several media offices were destroyed including the offices of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and Al Jazeera Network.

Doha Center for Media Freedom spoke to Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) to find out more about the damage caused by the deadly attack and how badly it affected media in Somalia.

Faruk said “one of our colleagues was killed in the attack. Freelance video journalist Ali Nur Siad-Ahmed was killed in the savage attack on 14 October 2017 which targeted one of Mogadishu’s busiest intersections; KM5. The names of the wounded journalists are: Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle who works with the Voice of America (VOA), Mohamed Omar Bakay of Goobjoog Radio and Abdullahi Osman of Mandeeq Radio, as well as freelance journalists Abdiqani Ali Adan and Ahmed Abdi Hadi, were wounded.”

“Ali Nur Siad-Ahmed, 31, is the second journalist to be killed in this year in Somalia after Beledweyne-based journalist Abdullahi Osman Moallim died a month before on 13 September. The death of the two journalists was caused by explosion carried out by extremists group Al-Shabaab and Siad-Ahmed by wife and two children.

One journalist who was severely burnt was taken to Turkey for urgent treatment. Other injured journalists are now being treated in Mogadishu since their wounds are not life-threatening. The wounded were treated in Madina and Digfeer hospital. Most of them are now discharged from the hospital and recuperating in their houses.” He added
According to Faruk, two media houses which are located near the blast site were severely damaged. “Goobjoog Radio and Ciyaaraha FM temporarily suspend broadcasting after both stations which were damaged by the blast because they’re located close to KM5. The blast also damaged offices of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) which is approximately 400 meters away from the blast site, shattering windows, blowing doors off their hinges and destroying equipment.
Faruk thinks that journalists and media at large were not deliberately targeted, but the attack was designed to target civilians and to cause maximum damage which sadly affected the media community as well.

“The attack was also designed in a way to give maximum coverage for actions of anyone who was behind it. But it did not turn out as expected.”
Secretary-General of NUSOJ told DCMF that he was surprised “that an attack of such magnitude is not claimed by any group. But the writing is on the wall. It has the hallmark of Al-Shabaab for committing such an attack. But given that it has caused this unprecedented level of death, destruction and injuries, which affected enormously innocent civilians and nearly every family in Mogadishu, I suspect those behind it had no other option but not to claim to avoid serious repercussion from the ordinary people.”

Farouk praised the role media played in reporting on the attack and helping people through such a tragedy “as the attack had shaken all Somali citizens and people were all united in grieve, the media was effectively reporting on the attack and the victimization of the civilian people. They have been giving voice to victims and helping families who are missing their loved ones. Media was however careful in putting the blame on Al-Shabaab in fear of retaliation.”
Speaking about the challenges facing journalists in Somalia, Farouk thinks that the most serious challenge for journalists in Somalia is physical safety. Journalists do not know how to protect themselves in terror attacks. They do not have the necessary protective equipment required for covering dangerous stories or events. 

Source: DCMF

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2017

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