Somalia is one of the most dangerous places for working journalists. Since 2007, at least 13 journalists have been killed because of their work and more than 50 have been forced to leave the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the National Union of Somali Journalists. Those who remain behind to witness the continued war face the constant threat of intimidation, beating, and torture – not only from rebel militias, but even by the transitional Somali government.
Ordinarily, organizations like the CPJ would call on the government of Somalia to ensure greater safety for journalists, but Somalia has no effective government to call upon. On Dec. 29, 2008, the president of the Transitional Federal Government, Abdullah Yusuf, resigned. The country remains largely in the hands of a collection of warring militias, most of whom view journalism as an existential threat rather than a civic need.
"When the Islamic Courts Union arrested you, people could come and talk and ask questions, and there could be some dialogue," says Ali, an exiled Somali journalist and chairman of a group calling itself the Committee for Somali Journalists. "But with Al Shabab [a radical Islamist group], there is no dialogue, there are no questions. Anyone who asks questions on your behalf also gets arrested."
"Why we become targeted," Ali says, "is because these people do not want media coverage and international exposure of the massacres they are carrying out."