A Somali journalists’ association Sunday slammed the actions of police who it said threatened to shoot reporters trying to access the scene of a car bombing near parliament and warned of a “worsening situation” for the country’s press.
Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people and was claimed by the Al-Shabaab extremist group, stopped a group of reporters from international newsgroups, including Al Jazeera’s Jama Nur Ahmed.
“When the journalists tried to explain to the police about their reporting mission, a police officer fired two bullets (in the) air and then pointed his rifle on Jama Nur’s head, according to Jama Nur Ahmed and two other colleagues,” the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said in a statement.
Also in the group were journalists from Reuters, AFP, and Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, followed by a second wave of reporters who were similarly denied access.
“The journalists said the police officers told them they had orders restricting journalist coverage at the scenes of attacks and threatened that any journalist who tries to film will either be shot dead or his/her equipment will be broken resulting (in) the journalists to return back from the scene,” said the SJS.
It charged Somali police treat journalists “as criminals”, preventing them from doing their work of reporting on events in the country. “This is a symptom of a worsening situation against journalists in Somalia.”
It said that on May 14 police confiscated reporters’ equipment, detained a cameraman, and beat up two others trying to report on another Mogadishu explosion.
AFP has documented several incidents in recent months of journalists being intimidated and threatened and their equipment seized while trying to report on Shabaab attacks.
The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible.”
“We call the highest offices of the government including that of the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in order to for the journalists to report freely and accurately without fear,” said the statement.