President Mohamed Farmaajo has sensationally linked Somali journalists to the militant group Al-Shabaab in what could further expose them to risks in an already volatile and deadly working environment.
The president made the disturbing remarks Saturday during a talk in a public forum without substantiating any of his claims.
“There are journalists who look like journalists but they’re not. They’re lacking either education or experience,” the President claimed.
“They are making big mistakes or they have links with Al-Shabaab and they are working for them.”
The remarks are a first for a sitting head of state in recent history to link members of a profession to extremism at a time the industry is coming to terms with a controversial Media Law which criminalises reporting seen by the state as against economic or national security interests.
Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) termed the President’s remarks ‘disturbing’.
“We are deeply saddened that the President of Somalia stamps Somali journalists as Alshabaab militants. “Any ‘official-stamping’ will end up as another obstacle for their reporting job and the ultimate goal is to become afraid and silent about reporting realities on the ground,” the journalists union said in a tweet.
The President’s remarks could further exacerbate an already fragile and dangerous situation for journalists in Somalia who not only work in fear of extremist groups but also rogue state apparatus who make hay out of such remarks from the president.
In the last ten years alone, 51 journalists have been killed at the course of duty in Somalia while several others have sustained injuries and forced out of work as others flee the country on security grounds.
Though Farmaajo has time and again pledged to protect press freedom and security of journalists, his actions and remarks tell a different story. Journalists have in the last four years suffered under oppressive and draconian laws deployed by his administration to stamp out dissent.