Journalist dies for press freedom
Well known Somalia radio journalist and human rights activist Farhan James Abdulle was murdered, ironically, just days after the World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3, each year, was marked.
Abdulle, 27, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Garsoor in Central Somalia. He was a reporter for the Galkayo branch of Radio Daljir, and the fifth journalist to be murdered in war-torn country this year.
An outspoken defender of press freedom, he fought for improved security for journalists and paid with his life. He joins the growing list of journalists who have paid the ultimate price for the profession. According to the International Press Institute, 62 journalists were killed last year and many more were injured.
As of December 2011, 179 journalists were detained, indicating a 20 per cent increase from the previous year, and the highest level since the 1990s.
IPI is a global organisation of editors, media executives and leading journalists dedicated to the protection of press freedom.
In a terse statement, UNESCO’s director–general Irina Bokova condemned the act. She said, “Every effort must, therefore, be deployed to find the killers of Farhan James Abdulle and bring them to justice. There must be no impunity.
“His tragic death, just as we mark World Press Freedom Day, deprives the people of Somalia of a voice that spoke out for their right to be informed and their right to freedom of expression.”
The development of a robust democracy is a complex task, especially in countries emerging from conflict. “Press freedom plays a vital role in this and journalists must be able to work without fearing for their lives, if they are to fulfill their responsibilities,” said Ms Bokova.
The murder of journalists in their course of their duties brings to the light the power of the press to spark social and political change and to hold governments accountable.
A free press gives people access to the information they need to make critical decisions about their lives. It holds leaders accountable, exposes corruption, and promotes transparency in decision-making. “It raises awareness and offers an outlet for different voices, especially those that would otherwise go unheard,” says Ms Bokova.
Indeed, this is the crucial role that both new and old forms of media have played over the past year in the Middle East and North African regions which have been at the centre of various civil movements and in the opening up of the political space.
The World Press Freedom Day, which was marked in Somalia, both Sudan and South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in other countries stricken by violence and lawlessness, signified the celebration of one of the fundamental principles of freedom.
It was a day used to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
“Change in the Arab world has shown the power of aspirations for rights when combined with new and old media. Newfound media freedom is promising to transform societies through greater transparency and accountability,” says Ms. Bokova. “It is opening new ways to communicate and to share information and knowledge. Powerful new voices are rising – especially from young people – where they were silent before.”
While new voices have come forward seeking transformational change, media freedom is facing severe pressures across the world crimes against journalists should not remain unpunished.
“These journalists must not be forgotten and these crimes should not remain unpunished,” says Ms. Bokova. “As media moves online, more online journalists, including bloggers, are being harassed, attacked, and killed for their work. They must receive the same protection as traditional media workers.”