Hassan Osman Abdi, known on air at Shabelle Radio in Mogadishu as ‘Fantastic,’ was killed on Sunday evening in the Somali capital. Abedi was Chief Editor of Shabelle Radio. The 29-year-old father of three was the most recent of the station’s five journalists killed for doing his job in one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters.
Over 40 reporters, editors and directors of the media houses have been killed in the past two decades.
Abdi was gunned down on Saturday evening in front of his home in southern Mogadishu by two armed men who immediately fled the area. He was stopped by the pair as he was entering his gate. They then shot him several times.
“We have been targeted because of our uncensored editorial policy,” Mohamed Amiin Adow, a representative for the station, told Al Jazeera. “We try to expose every part of Somalia of what they are doing to the public. We are targeted for our independence.”
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) strongly condemned the incident: “We send our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and friends … while we call the Transitional Federal government to investigate the shooting to death of the journalist,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, NUSOJ secretary-general.
Somalia’s president strongly condemned the killing of a leading journalist as a “senseless murder,” suggesting Sunday that the country’s al Qaeda-linked Islamist militia Al-Shabaab may have been responsible.
President Sharif Ahmed “condemns and expresses grief and sorrow” at the murder, he said in a statement, urging the public to help police investigate the killing.
“It has long been the strategy of groups like Al-Shabaab to target public figures in our society with the aim of spreading fear and panic. We will not be intimidated or threatened by such odious acts,” the president said.
The private station, one of the largest in Somalia, was set up in 2002 outside Mogadishu. But after a series of threats and after being forced to stop playing music by al-Shabab, they moved closer to the city’s airport, where they resumed broadcasting as usual.
The recipient of several journalism awards, including the 2010 Press Freedom Prize, the station has 80 reporters across the country, funded by advertisement revenue and aid from relief organisations.
About a hundred of their reporters have had to flee the country after death threats.
Ali Abdi, Shabelle’s head of international relations, said: “We will not be intimidated. We are determined to continue our struggle for independent journalists and respect for human rights.”