- A British journalist working for the 'BBC' was shot in a targeted attack today by unidentified gunmen outside her hotel in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. Journalists are still seen as "prime targets" by some of the many armed groups operating in the Somali capital and 16 journalists have now been gunned down in Somalia since 1993.
Kate Peyton, 39, a producer based in Johannesburg, was taken to the Madina hospital in Mogadishu for an operation to remove a bullet wound to her back but later died of internal bleeding. The circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear, but according to local reports, Ms Peyton was entering the Hotel Sahafi ("Sahafi" means journalist in Somali) when two masked men drove by in a taxi and shot her in the shoulder.
Ms Peyton was one of a number of foreign reporters in the Somali capital covering a government team that is assessing conditions in the capital, ahead of a plan to relocate the Somali government to Mogadishu from its current exile in Nairobi. The transitional Somali government has been based in Nairobi since they came to power a few months ago amid continued fears of instability in Somalia.
The country of about 10 million people has been a theatre of anarchic bloodletting since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, plunging the nation into a patchwork of fiefdoms governed by warlords and a high degree of mob-rule and street violence.
Between 1993 and 1998, 15 journalists were killed; ten of them foreign correspondents during a period when the United Nations and the United States vainly attempted to restore stability in the country. Ms Peyton is the 16th journalist to be killed following the disintegration of Somalis.
Ms Peyton had worked for 10 years in Africa and began working for the 'BBC' as a producer and reporter in 1993. She also worked as a producer and trainer for the 'South African Broadcasting Corporation' (SABC) in Johannesburg.
While police continue investigating and say they have located the taxi and the pistol used in the attack, the two men involved have still not been tracked down. Mogadishu police have mostly been helpless in cases involving the armed gangs and clans controlling parts of the city.
Less than one month ago, Mogadishu police chief Yusuf Ahmed Sarinle was shot dead by an armed group, probably because of his support for the exiled government. Further incidents in the city, such as the destruction of an Italian cemetery by armed militiamen, demonstrate that an armed opposition to the exiled government is being formed.
These elements could also have been responsible for the death of Ms Peyton, giving yet another signal that the Somali capital is not safe enough to shelter the government or the proposed African Union (AU) peacekeepers. As the identity of the gunmen is still unknown, these are however mere speculations.
Naturally, the killing of the BBC reporter in Mogadishu has caused alarm among members of the press. The Somali Journalists Network (SOJON) says it is "following the case" and the police's investigations. SOJON organises journalists in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia, most of them working under constant threat from armed militias.
The assassination of Ms Peyton today also caused protests from the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a union organising over 500,000 journalists worldwide, including SOJON members. The attack on Ms Peyton "threatens all media staff working in the country," IFJ warned today.
- The fact that she was shot very close to the journalists' hotel in Mogadishu suggests that the lawlessness that made journalists prime targets in Somalia during the 1990s is far from finished, said IFJ Secretary-General Aidan White. "This should be a warning to all media that political promises of an end to the violence are a long way from being delivered," he added.
A normalisation of the situation in Somalia was yet not at reach. "This shooting is a chilling reminder that journalists, particularly foreign correspondents, face a high risk in trying to cover the latest efforts to bring peace and stability to Somalia," said Mr White.
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