Africa: In Memoriam - African Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty

19 December 2016

Somalia continues to stand out as the African nation in which journalists' lives are most consistently at risk.

The Committee to Protect Journalists' annual survey of journalists killed in the course of performing their duties shows that three Somali journalists died in 2016, compared to three in 2015 and four in 2014. In 2016, Somalia was the fifth most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Other African countries in which journalists were killed in 2016 were Libya, where three died, and Guinea, where one died. However, across the continent as a whole, the number of journalists who died was slightly lower in 2016 than in the previous two years.

In 2015, four died in South Sudan and one in each of Libya, Kenya, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2014, one journalist died in each of the Central African Republic, the DR Congo, Libya, Egypt and South Africa.

Worldwide, the number of journalists killed in relation to their work dropped from a record high of 72 in 2016 to 48 up to December 15 this year. The CPJ said it is still investigating at least 27 more deaths to establish if they were work-related.

The CPJ has published the following biographies of those who died this year in Somalia, Libya and Guinea:

Mahad Ali Mohamed, Codka Mudug Radio November 6, 2016, killed in Galkayo, Somalia

Mahad Ali Mohamed, a journalist for Codka Mudug Radio, was fatally shot in the north-central Somali town of Galkayo amid heavy fighting between fighters allied with the Galmudug and Puntland regions on November 6, 2016.

Hanad Abdi Farah, the director of Codka Mudug Radio, told Somalia media that Mahad was shot in the head by a stray bullet at roughly 10.30 a.m.

soon after he left his house for work, and that he died in hospital six hours later.

The town, which is divided into areas under the control of the semi-autonomous Galmudug and Puntland regions, had been a flashpoint in weeks of fighting in a border dispute between partisans of each region, despite repeated efforts to reach a ceasefire, according to press reports and human rights groups.

Abdiaziz Ali, Radio Shabelle Died September 27, 2016, in Mogadishu, Somalia

Abdiaziz Ali, a journalist for the Somali station Radio Shabelle, was walking home at around 6:10 p.m. on September 27, 2016, after visiting his parents in the Yaqshid district of Mogadishu, when two men on motorbikes pulled over and shot him several times, killing him, the BBC reported.

A former colleague of Abdiaziz's at the Shabelle Media Network told CPJ that the journalist had taken the day off to visit his relatives. He said that Abdiaziz's most recent work was a series of radio programs about the plight of the tens of thousands of Somalis forced to flee their homes in the long conflict with the militant group Al-Shabaab.

The 30-year-old hosted a morning talk show that often featured various topics, including corruption and the government's efforts to confront Al-Shabaab.

Somali authorities have repeatedly shut down Radio Shabelle and arrested its staff, and its journalists have repeatedly been targeted and killed, CPJ research shows.

Abdiaziz was newly married, his colleague said, and had no children.

Sagal Salad Osman, Radio Mogadishu June 5, 2016, in Mogadishu, Somalia

Sagal Salad Osman, 24, was a producer and presenter for the state-run Radio Mogadishu and a university student. She was leaving her university campus in the Hodan neighborhood of Mogadishu when three gunmen shot her in the head and the chest, killing her, police Major Nur Ali told Reuters. The gunmen immediately fled the scene, according to news reports.

Sagal produced a children's program for the radio station, according to a Somali journalist who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports, but Ali told Reuters that he believed Al-Shabaab were responsible. Militants have a history of targeting journalists for Radio Mogadishu and other state media, according to CPJ research. Women in public roles in particular have been targeted, the Strategic Initiative for women in the Horn of Africa found in a 2016 report.

CPJ was unable to determine if Sagal had received threats prior to the attack.

Jeroen Oerlemans , Freelance October 2, 2016, in Sirte, Libya

Oerlemans, a Dutch freelance photographer, was killed October 2, 2016 while covering a battle in the city of Sirte between forces loyal to the United Nations-backed Libyan government and members of the militant group Islamic State. He was working with Dutch reporter Joanie di Rijke, who was on assignment for the Belgian magazine Knack, Gerry Meeuwssen, the magazine's editorial coordinator, told CPJ by email.

While photographing the front line, Oerlemans was shot in the chest several times by an Islamic State sniper, according to an account published in Knack by de Rijke and news reports that quoted Libyan hospital and government officials.

In her account in Knack, de Rijke said that in the hours before he was killed, she and Oerlemans were following a group of Salafist fighters who were fighting Islamic State. The journalists followed the fighters to a square. Islamic State fighters had made a base in a building a few hundred feet away, and its snipers were shooting into the street.

Oerlemans ran across the street with some fighters to photograph the front line, ducking the sniper fire. De Rijke stayed behind. About 10 minutes later she was notified by a phone call from a Libyan contact that he had been hit, at which point she raced to the Misrata field hospital where she learned that Oerlemans had been shot dead.

Oerlemans was shot while running alone across the street, according to de Rijke's account. The shooting seemed to come from snipers in the building where Islamic State fighters had a base. At least 18 other people were killed in the fighting in Sirte that day, 10 from the Islamic State side and eight from militants fighting against them, according to news reports quoting government officials.

Oerlemans was wearing a flak jacket but one of the bullets hit him in the side of the chest, under his arm. He died instantly, reports said.

Oerlemans was a well-known photojournalist with extensive experience in the Middle East. A photo essay featuring his work in Sirte was published by the Dutch magazine De Volkskrant in July 2016.

In July 2012, Oerlemans was kidnapped by Islamist militants along with British freelance journalist John Cantlie as the pair crossed into Syria from Turkey. The journalists were held for a week before they were rescued by what Oerlemans told the media were anti-government Syrian fighters. Cantlie was kidnapped again in Syria later that year. Since being held hostage he has appeared in several Islamic State videos.

Abdelqadir Fassouk, Arraed Satellite TV July 21, 2016, in Sirte, Libya

Arraed television correspondent and Libyan photojournalist Abdelqadir Fassouk was fatally shot on July 21, 2016, while covering a battle between government-allied forces and the Islamic State militant group, in the Ouagadougou neighborhood of the outskirts of the coastal city of Sirte, Arraed reported.

Fayez Swiry, a supervising news editor with Arraed channel, a satellite news channel based in Istanbul, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that Fassouk was on an assignment with the station, covering fighting between forces loyal to Libya's unity government and the Islamic State group when he was shot. He added that medical staff who saw Fassouk's body and Brazilian photojournalist Andre Liohn, who was with Fassouk at the time of his death, told the station that Fassouk had been shot by a sniper.

Liohn told CPJ that he was covering the clashes with Fassouk, and that the two had worked alongside each other covering Libya since 2011. He told CPJ that he and Fassouk were trapped by constant fire from fighters loyal to the Islamic State group. When they tried to take cover behind a car, a sniper shot Fassouk in the head.

Liohn on July 22, 2016, published short video showing Fassouk on the frontlines, photographing a young fighter allied with the government firing a rocket-propelled grenade at Islamic State group positions.

He later told the story of Fassouk's killing to the Brazilian newspaper Folha, in a video that was published on the newspaper's YouTube channel on July 24.

Arraed channel published several video reports by Fassouk in the days following his death, saying that he was committed to obtaining exclusive footage from the front, even at the risk of his life.

"His motive was always (finding) the truth and nothing more. He was our first source for information and verification," his colleague, Yasin Khattab, said in an interview published on the broadcaster's YouTube channel on July 22.

In a statement issued on its website on July 22, the local press freedom group Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press said that Fassouk had spoken with researchers from the group the day before he was killed. In that conversation, Fassouk emphasized that journalists covering the war against the Islamic State group face serious risks, including a lack of safety equipment, and that journalists had been repeatedly trapped in the fighting.

Fassouk was the second Libyan photojournalist to be killed in conflict in a month. Freelance photojournalist Khaled al-Zintani was fatally shot while covering clashes on June 24 in Benghazi.

Fassouk had worked as a photojournalist since the 2011 Libyan uprising.

His work appeared in The Associated Press and Time magazine.

Khaled al-Zintani, Freelance June 24, 2016, in Benghazi, Libya

Photojournalist al-Zintani was killed by a sniper while reporting in Gwersha, a southern district in Benghazi, on June 24. Al-Zintani documented the involvement of the Saiqa (special forces) of the Libyan National Army in the conflict in Libya. He also sold content to local and international networks on a freelance basis.

Al-Zintani was covering an offensive by the Saiqa against Islamist militias at the time of his death, according to his colleagues and news reports. The Saiqa's media office released a statement announcing the death of seven of its members on June 24, including al-Zintani, who was described as a media professional. Some of the work produced by the photographer, who had an unarmed role in the forces, was used internally by the Saiqa and some was used to promote the group on local channels, according to colleagues of al-Zintani.

After he was hit, al-Zintani was taken to a hospital in Benghazi, where he died later that day from his injuries, Omar Altwati, a freelance producer with whom al-Zintani had worked in the week before his death, told CPJ. According to Altwati and local news reports, the sniper likely belonged to the Islamist militias fighting for territory in and around Benghazi. CPJ was unable to determine if any group took responsibility.

The journalist had worked for multiple Libyan outlets, including al-Zintan TV, which released a statement paying tribute to him after his death. In the weeks before his death, he had worked closely with Altwati, a freelancer who produces video and images for Sky News Arabia TV, which is part-owned by British Sky Broadcasting and has headquarters in Abu Dhabi. A spokesperson for Sky News Arabia TV told CPJ that it did not deal directly with al-Zintani.

Altwati, the producer, told CPJ that al-Zintani had provided him with images of fighting in Gwersha earlier in June and that they communicated on June 23, the day before al-Zintani was killed. Records of text messages between the two journalists, viewed by CPJ, show that al-Zintani said on June 23 that he would cover any fighting for Altwati in the area in the coming days.

Altwati said he did not hear from al-Zintani again and when he tried to call him on June 24, the photographer's phone was turned off. Altwati said that another journalist told him al-Zintani had been killed covering a Libyan National Army offensive that day. Altwati told CPJ that he confirmed the death with a military spokesperson, who also said al-Zintani was with a Saiqa unit at the time he was hit.

A YouTube channel in al-Zintani's name contains videos dating back to 2012, mostly about the fighting in Libya. Videos from the past three months before his death include a report about the Libyan National Army reclaiming a cement factory in Benghazi from Islamist militias, and promotional reports about the Libyan National Army's air force. The videos are marked as filmed and produced by al-Zintani.

Al-Zintani took up photojournalism in 2011 after the Libyan uprising against Muammar Qaddafi. Brian Conley, director of the U.S.-based company Small World News, which provides training to citizen journalists, told CPJ he met al-Zintani in Libya in 2011 when the journalist was covering fighting in the town of Zintan. He said that they met again in 2012 at a video production workshop that Conley ran in Benghazi. Conley said he helped al-Zintani sell content to U.S.

television networks. The two later discussed collaborating on running workshops for young journalists in Libya, but the project never materialized, Conley said.

Benghazi has been the scene of fierce fighting in 2016 between units belonging to the internationally recognized Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, and Islamist militias, some with affiliations to the militant group, Islamic State.

El-Hadj Mohamed Diallo, Guinée7, Afrik February 5, 2016, in Conakry, Guinea

Diallo, a reporter for the news websites Guinée7 and Afrik, was shot in the chest during clashes outside a meeting of Guinea's main opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, in the capital, Conakry, according to reports. He died on the way to the hospital.

The reporter was shot during clashes at a political meeting he was covering. When the politician Oury Bah, who had recently been removed from his post as party vice-president, was denied entry to the party's headquarters, clashes erupted between his supporters and those of the current leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, according to reports.

Ibrahima Sory Traoré, publication manager of the privately owned Guinée7, told reporters on February 5 that he had viewed the reporter's body. Traoré said, "He was shot at point-blank range."

It was not immediately clear who shot Diallo, Reuters said. Government spokesperson Damantang Albert Camara said the killing is being investigated as a "voluntary homicide," according to reports. Guinea's Justice Minister Cheick Sako told reporters, "This crime will not go unpunished."

Attempts by CPJ to call police in Conakry for comment in early February went unanswered.

Diallo, who was married and had a young daughter, also contributed to the weekly L'Indépendant, according to reports. On February 8, 2016, hundreds of people marched in the capital, and nationwide the media held a "press-free" day to demand justice for Diallo, according to reports. A tribute to Diallo, published by his outlet Guinée7 on February 10, described the reporter's death a "huge loss for the Guinean press."

According to media reports, 17 of the 20 people arrested in connection with the crime were freed by August 2016. Two were still detained, while a third died in state custody, the U.S.-government-funded Voice of America reported.

Ibrahima Sory Traoré, publication manager of the privately owned Guinée7, told CPJ on December 5, 2016, that five people were charged in connection with Diallo's murder. He said two of suspects were in custody, and that police had warrants for the arrest of three other suspects still at large.

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