Thugs who murdered two journalists in Mogadishu, Somalia, last weekend have failed to silence the radio and television station where the men—including one Somali-Canadian—worked in an effort to bring free and independent media to their war-ravaged country. Ali Imán Sharmarke left Ottawa for his native Somalia in 1999 and opened HornAfrik Media, the country’s first independent radio station, with two other Somali-Canadians. He was killed in a bomb attack on Saturday, only hours after one of HornAfrik’s most popular journalists, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, was fatally shot in the head outside the station. Two men are in custody for the murders.
HornAfrik regularly infuriates all factions in Somalia’s anarchic civil conflict that pits clan-based warlords, Islamist insurgents and a government backed by Ethiopian troops against each other. It has a reputation for reporting the news fairly, and it takes no sides other than that of Somalia’s suffering civilians. The station has made a lot of enemies as a result. “In the last seven years, we were facing all sorts of attempts to stop the station, to bomb the station, to intimidate people,” Ahmed Abdisalam Adan, director of programs at HornAfrik, told Maclean’s. “But never have we seen this level of brutality.”
Adan also lived in Ottawa for several years before returning to Somalia to help launch HornAfrik. He was visiting Canada when his colleagues were murdered—a twist of fate that might have saved his life. But Adan will shortly be returning to Somalia to resume his journalistic duties. “The idea was to intimidate us and to make sure that we stop,” he said. “But it will produce an adverse reaction. We will continue to stay on the air. We will not be intimidated. And we will continue the work that Ali died for. Otherwise Ali will be dead in vain.” M
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