Somalia: $50,000 for info on journalists' killers


MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The Somali government is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the convictions of those killing journalists, the country's prime minister said.

Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said over the weekend that the reward will help ensure that such killers are brought to justice.

Somalia is one of the world's most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Last year 18 Somali journalists were killed, but no arrests were made. So far this year one reporter has been killed, bringing to 45 the total number of journalists killed here since 2007.

The National Union of Somali Journalists said last year that impunity is a fundamental problem in Somalia. It said no one has been convicted for the deaths of the journalists. Judicial reform is at the heart of the government's efforts to ensure killers of journalists are brought to justice, Shirdon said during a meeting with journalists on Saturday.

The prime minister called the meeting to discuss the government's relationship with the media and listen to journalists' concerns, following the killing of journalist on January 18 and two recent arrests of reporters, according to a statement from his office.

"I respect the important work you do in Somalia in what are often extremely difficult circumstances and I understand your concern," the prime minister said. "One journalist killed is one journalist too many. We don't want any to be killed."

He said that nobody in Somalia is above the law, including government officials.

The decision to establish the Independent Task Force on Human Rights, which was launched on February 5, had been taken in large part to address concerns about the human rights abuses against Somali journalists, as well as to investigate violence against women, he said.

International human rights groups expressed outrage over the one year sentences given earlier this month by a Mogadishu court to a woman who said she was raped by security forces, and freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur, who interviewed her. Rights groups say the charges against the two were politically motivated because the rape accusations were made against the security forces.

Rape is reported to be rampant in Mogadishu, where tens of thousands of people who fled last year's famine live in poorly protected camps. Government troops are often blamed for raping women in the camps.

Journalist advocacy groups also condemned the detention without trial, for more than a week, of journalist Daud Abdi Daud, who spoke out in court against Abdinur's sentence.

Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders accused the Somali government of clamping down the free expression in the country.

Human Rights Watch said Monday that the Somali Court of Appeals in Mogadishu will hear the cases of Abdinur and the woman he interviewed who alleged rape by government forces.

"The outcome of this case is crucial for both the reporting of sexual violence and press freedom in Somalia," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This case is a travesty, but it could still end with justice prevailing."