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Rageh Omaar: ‘Nothing prepares you for becoming a parent. I just sobbed’



Our family home in Mogadishu was in an area lined with trees, very green and the sun was always shining. I played on sandy beaches and in the warm, clear sea. I remember balmy summers – wet and humid – and the city had a beautiful whitewashed look because it was built under Italian colonial rule.

During those endless summers, we would have lots of extended family gatherings – often relatives I had never seen, but had been told about, who would be returning home after working abroad.

My father, Abdullahi, became an accountant before setting up his businesses. He had a contract to represent Massey Ferguson tractors, introduced Coca-Cola to Somalia and started the country’s first independent newspaper. He was building his businesses at a time of huge political change and remained hard-working and determined to provide for his family. He was also a fun father with his five children.

My mother, Sahra, is one of 12 children – all girls except for one boy. Her smile is as broad as the sun and she has a mischievous wit. She is loving and the centre of our family in the same way that she was a mother figure to her younger siblings – to this day, they look on her as a role model and matriarch. When she was over in London, she walked everywhere, which I find tedious and she still has a go at me for being a couch potato.

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My parents grew up in a very different world from me. Somalia was then a nomadic country and the life they experienced was like something from the 19th century. They taught us the importance of education and traditional cultural family values and created a stable and happy home: we could feel proud about where we came from.
I arrived in London as a six-year-old in 1973 because of my father’s dream for his children to have a good education. The first thing I felt after leaving Heathrow was this blast of cold air.

I thought, what’s going on? Then I saw the unusual colours from the street lighting and neon advertising hoardings. But my abiding memory is of my mother when she took me to my first day at boarding school – something she considered barbaric, but was what my father wanted. She thought when I was met by the housemaster, I would turn around and say: “Mummy, come and get me and take me home.” But I just turned around at the door after being welcomed, waved her away and said: “All right, Mum, off you go.” To this day, she’s never forgiven me for that

Even though my father started a newspaper, he tried to discourage me from becoming a journalist; he thought it wasn’t a serious profession. He wanted me to study law and I was close to becoming a barrister. We struck a deal: I said I’ll try to become a journalist and if it doesn’t work after a few years, I’ll go ahead with law. He lived to see that I made it and he was proud – and happy in the end. He said I had made the right choice.

Becoming a father myself for the first time was life-altering. Despite everything I had read and attending childbirth classes, nothing prepared me. Nina and I held Loula in our arms and it was so overwhelming and overpowering that I just sobbed. Having another life in your care was huge and that wonderful moment feels scarcely believable.I see my children as independent young people. My parents taught me to be independent and to think independently. My father thought that independence gives you a sense of worth and strength.

I see this in our children [Loula, 16, Sami, 15, and Zachary, 11]: they are able to stand on their own two feet. They can cook – something my father taught me –and are good, independent travellers, which they got from us because we travelled a lot while they were growing up.

My father died in 2009 aged 79. It is a huge blow when reality strikes, but he’d not been well for some time and I’d seen his health deteriorate. Hundreds of people came to his funeral. I dealt with his death by trying to talk about it with my family and we always mark his anniversary.

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IFJ expresses concerns over the escalation of attacks on media freedom in Somalia



The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned about the dangerous escalation of attacks on freedom of the media in Somalia after the authorities have tightened the noose on freedom of expression following imprisonment and reckless attacks on journalists during the past week.

On 4 January 2018, Ahmed Yusuf Suleman, reporter of Horn Cable Television, survived an attempted murder, after men armed with pistols who are believed to be plainclothes security officials fired four shots towards him, chased and caught him, and pointed a pistol at his head. The police reportedly intervened to release the journalist from the plainclothes officials though Suleman sustained wounds on both hands, legs, shoulders and hips.

On 7 January 2018, journalists Ahmed Dirie Iltire and Mohamed Abdullahi Hussein of Opens external link in new were accused by Somaliland prosecutors in Borame in the Awdal region and sentenced to 2 years in prison. The prosecutors indicted the two journalists for “spreading propaganda against the nation, degrading the nation, and disgracing national flag and symbol of a foreign country”.

“We condemn this brazen assault on journalists in the strongest possible terms”, said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “Gun touting men cannot be allowed to commit violence and cause bodily harm with impunity in Somalia. The Somali Government must demonstrate the required political will and show full commitment in its fight against impunity.”

The IFJ is deeply troubled about the continued imprisonment of journalists in Somaliland for expressing their right to freedom of expression. “The last few months have seen a sharp escalation in attacks by the Somaliland authorities through the judiciary on journalists and the media in general in a bid to silence dissent. This is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Somaliland,” said Bellanger.

The IFJ reiterates its support to its Somalia affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), for its adamant stance to defend media freedom and journalists’ rights in the face of renewed and unwarranted attacks against Somali journalists and their union which is engineered by the Ministry of Information of Somali government. “Somali leaders must not allow perpetrators of these attacks go unpunished,” added Bellanger.

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Media Group: 81 Reporters Died, Threats Soared in 2017



At least 81 reporters were killed doing their jobs this year, while violence and harassment against media staff has skyrocketed, the world’s biggest journalists’ organization says.

In its annual “Kill Report,” seen by The Associated Press, the International Federation of Journalists said the reporters lost their lives in targeted killings, car bomb attacks and crossfire incidents around the world.

More than 250 journalists were in prison in 2017.

The number of deaths as of December 29 was the lowest in a decade, down from 93 in 2016. The largest number were killed in Mexico, but many also died in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The IFJ suspected but could not officially confirm that at least one other journalist was killed Thursday in an attack by an Islamic State suicide bomber on a Shiite cultural center in Kabul, in which at least 41 people died.

IFJ President Philippe Leruth said that while the drop in deaths “represents a downward trend, the levels of violence in journalism remain unacceptably high.”
He said the IFJ finds it “most disturbing that this decrease cannot be linked to any measure by governments to tackle the impunity for these crimes.”

Eight women journalists were killed, two in European democracies – Kim Wall in Denmark, who died on the submarine of an inventor she was writing about, and Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was blown up by a bomb placed in her car.

Beyond the deaths, the IFJ warned that “unprecedented numbers of journalists were jailed, forced to flee, that self-censorship was widespread and that impunity for the killings, harassment, attacks and threats against independent journalism was running at epidemic levels.”

Turkey, where official pressure on the media has been ramped up since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, is becoming notorious for putting reporters behind bars. Some 160 journalists are jailed in Turkey – two-thirds of the global total – the report said.

The organization also expressed concern about India, the world’s largest democracy, where it said that attacks on journalists are being motivated by violent populism.

Countries with the highest numbers of media killings:

Mexico: 13

Afghanistan: 11

Iraq: 11

Syria: 10

India: 6

Philippines: 4

Pakistan: 4

Nigeria: 3

Somalia: 3

Honduras: 3

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UNESCO Calls for Investigation Into Death of Journalist in Somalia



SPUTNIK — UNESCO condemned the recent killing of journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Gabow in Somali and has called for an investigation into his death, the United Nations agency’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement on Thursday.

“I condemn the killing of Mohamed Ibrahim Gabow,” Azoulay said. “I call on the Somali authorities to spare no effort in bringing to trial those responsible for this attack on the human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of information.”

Gabow, a television presenter for the Mogadishu-based Kalsan TV, was killed on December 11 in the Somali capital when a bomb planted in his car detonated, according to local media reports.

Somalia has been engulfed in violence since the eruption of a civil war between clan-based armed factions in the early 1990s. Al-Shabab, an affiliate of the Al-Qaeda terror network, has been staging numerous attacks in the country in an attempt to implement strict Sharia law.

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