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Credit: picture alliance / Ap Photo

Abdiaziz Ali

On 27 September 2016 Abdiaziz Ali was on his way to visit his parents in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Suddenly a motorbike roared past him, on the pillion of which was a man with a gun, who shot the journalist multiple times. Eye witnesses described a scene like an execution, with the perpetrators able to escape unidentified.

Abdiaziz Ali was the presenter of a morning programme on Radio Shabelle, an independent private radio broadcaster in Mogadishu that is among Somalia’s most popular stations. The East African country is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, ranking 167th out of 180 on the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

In this country shaken by the attacks of Islamist groups and by regional conflicts, murders of journalists are an almost daily occurrence.

Nevertheless, the attack on Abdiaziz Ali attracted international attention, a symbol that there would be no surrender in the struggle for press freedom. The UN Special Envoy for Somalia, Michael Keating, was forthright in his condemnation of the attack, calling on the authorities to make every effort to find the murderer and to bring him to justice. 

Keating described Ali as a “curious, experienced and resourceful journalist”, who had also regularly reported on the press conferences of international organisations in Mogadishu. His death signified a great loss, not only for his family and his friends, but indeed for journalism in the country as a whole, he said. The owner of Radio Shabelle, Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud, described Ali as a professional journalist who was devoted to his work. He didn’t know why Ali, of all people, had become a target for murder and nobody had claimed responsibility for the crime, Mohamud said.

The organisation Reporters Without Borders appealed to the authorities to provide funds to quickly resolve the crime and to bring those responsible to justice. The inaction in such cases simply encourages the enemies of journalists, it stated, so it is crucial that the Somali government takes credible measures, regardless of their limited means, to resolve such crimes and to show that this form of criminality will not be tolerated.

Yet even this appeal was without consequence. Almost exactly a year after the death, there were no indications of who the perpetrators were nor their motives. It is well known that the Somali authorities, where they are even able to act at all, seldom investigate attacks on the media. Radio Shabelle, which was founded by a group of young intellectuals in 2002, had itself already been targeted by the government. On several occasions, the authorities has silenced the broadcaster and imprisoned its staff.

The biggest enemies of journalists, however, remain the Islamist terrorists, who wage war against the free media and those who work for them.

Since 2006 alone, ten employees of Radio Shabelle have been murdered, including three of its directors. Ali was already the second Somali journalist murdered in 2016 after unknown perpetrators shot Sagal Salad Osman, who worked for the state-run Radio Mogadishu, in June of that year.

According to information from the UN’s mission in Somalia, UNSOM, at least 31 Somalian journalists have been murdered since August 2012. In a report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also describes the situation in the country as a particularly dangerous environment for journalists and other media employees.

The fact that Abdiaziz Ali continued to believe in the importance of his profession for the creation of a democratic Somalia shows just how brave he was. He was only 35 years old. He will not be forgotten.


written by Holger Schmale;, DuMont-Hauptstadtredaktion

  • Abdiaziz Ali

    The Somalian radio reporter Abdiadiz  Ali was only 35 years old. He worked for the independent Radio Shabelle in the capital Mogadishu and was responsible for the morning programme. Several shots fired from a motorbike killed him. Because of the low solve rate of murders of journalists in Somalia, his assassins were not captured after over a year. Abdiadiz Ali was the second killed Somalian journalist in that year after Sagal Salad Osman.

    Find out more about the story of Sagal Salad Osman.