Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday urged the Somali government to strive harder to protect journalists and media workers facing rampant violence and intimidation in the country.
The group published a report to mark World Press Freedom Day, calling for the Somali president, the federal parliament and government ministers to prevent attacks on journalists, prohibit intimidation and arbitrary arrests, stop the closure of broadcast stations and review legislation to bring it into line with freedom of expression.
The group accused the Somali authorities and Al Shabab militants of attacking media coverage, documenting arbitrary arrests, killing and the detention of journalists since 2014.
"Human Rights Watch did not find evidence of any government official or security force member having been disciplined or charged for abuses against journalists in the past several years," the report said.
Attacks against journalists and other media workers that goes unpunished by law reflects a wider impunity and general disregard for the rule of law, the group said.
The group cited the case of veteran journalist Abdirisak Jama Elmi, killed by unknown murderers in October 2014.
"As I was trying to escape, the man started shooting automatic rounds and I felt as though he hit me about 10 times in my back, I could hear several voices telling the shooter to aim better," he told HRW.
Al Shabab poses a particular threat to journalists, the report noted. "If I had only one enemy and if I saw accountability and justice for the murder of my friends, I wouldn’t censor myself," a radio station manager told HRW. "But now we face a very dangerous group that wants to interpret every single word in the media, that is al-Shabaab, and authorities that also want to oppress us instead of protecting us."
Last year, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Somalia at the top of its list of countries where killings of journalists go uninvestigated.