Somalia was on Tuesday counting the cost of losing another journalist after Abdifatah Moalim Nur became the latest victim to the extremist act which local militants Al Shabaab acknowledged.
Known locally as Qays, Nur was caught in a huge explosion some minutes past 9pm on Monday night as he patronised Blue-Sky Restaurant in Mogadishu. The eatery is a popular go-to place for many journalists and young people in the Somali capital.
A police statement after said Qays who had been the director of Mogadishu branch of a popular, independently Somali Cable TV was a victim of a suicide attack.
Police said four other people were seriously wounded in the attack.
Qays was widely known and respected journalist in Mogadishu and had been the among the first media professionals to run Hurmo Radio, previously known as the Voice of the Somali Civil Society and which operated under the Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN or, in Somali INXA) in Somalia.
He later progressed through the ranks of media, working for different stations until he joined the Somali Cable TV.
The National Union of Somali Journalists (Nusoj), a local press freedom welfare lobby described Qays as a journalist who stuck to professionalism even in the wake of threats on media.
His death, the Union said, had “left an indelible mark on Somali journalism, inspiring countless young journalists to strive for excellence.”
“We stand united in denouncing this monstrous act and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Abdifatah Moalim Nur. His untimely demise leaves an irreplaceable void in Somalia journalism, and his loss will be deeply felt by all who cherish the pursuit of truth,” said Omar Faruk Osman, the Secretary General of Nusoj.
“Abdifatah’s tragic passing is a devastating blow to Somalian journalists. He was a dedicated journalist who fearlessly pursued and upheld the principles of free and independent media.”
Witnesses said Qays was a victim to a suicide bomber who sat next to his table.
Burhan Dini Farah, the Director of Kulmiye Radio, one of the most popular private broadcasters in the city was at a block next to the restaurant.
“I was overwhelmed when I saw the badly injured body of Abdifatah Qays,” Farah said, describing the journalist as usually polite.
Qays was shuttled to Erdogan Hospital in Mogadishu where his death was confirmed by medics. His body was transferred to Medina Referral Hospital where burial is to take place.
Somalia is one of Africa’s most dangerous places to work as a journalist. At least 50 journalists have been killed since 2010 and dozens of others seriously wounded in targeted incidents.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based press freedom lobby, the country ranks 140 out of 180 countries polled around the world on press freedom which often includes safety to work as a journalist and access to information.
RSF describes Somalia’s media landscape as extremely hostile and unstable. Al Shabaab has often launched attacks on journalists seen as critical of their operations such as the case of Abdiaziz Guled aka Afrika, the former the Director of state-owned Radio Mogadishu who was killed in a targeted suicide bombing in Mogadishu in November 2021.
Last year in November, a deadly twin explosion in Mogadishu’s Zoobe junction killed 120 people and wounded at least another 300. Among the dead was another journalist, Mohamed Issa Hassan alias Koona, who worked with M24 Somali TV, an online broadcaster.
In Somalia, however, Nusoj says the threats comes from both overzealous government officials and Al Shabaab militants. Last year, Somalia saw some 95 attacks on media outlets and journalists including the arrest of 56 journalists across the country, accused of various crimes.