Somali mission survivors say no bulletproof vests, training
SUBANG, Sept 4 — Young journalists who covered a non-governmental organisation’s fatal humanitarian mission to Somalia said they were not given full training or bulletproof vests in Africa’s deadliest country for media personnel. Bernama TV cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd Nor was killed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu last Friday when African Union peacekeepers allegedly shot at a four-wheel drive in which six mission members, including the 39-year-old, were travelling.
Astro Awani reporter Tan Su Lin, who was in the same truck with Noramfaizul during the shooting, said she was not trained on how to cover hostile zones.
“We were told it’s very dangerous, life-threatening,” Tan told reporters at the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base here today.
“(But we did not get) bulletproof vests…our car was not marked media. It was just a four-wheel drive,” she added.
The 27-year-old reporter also said that the mission organised by the Putera 1 Malaysia Club — which provided aid to famine-stricken Somalia from August 28 — was her first war-zone assignment.
“There were a lot of soldiers…you see people (walking) around with AK47s and you don’t feel anything. At night, you hear gunshots,” said Tan, who has four years’ experience in journalism.
She added that the shooting happened when the four-wheel drive — which carried six pressmen — was leaving a hotel that hosted the medical team to the media team’s hostel just five minutes away.
“At the corner near our compound, I heard a very loud bang sound. Aji (Saregar Mazlan) was holding his arm… he was in pain. There was blood. The late Noramfaizul was leaning on his (Aji’s) right shoulder. There was a bullet hole in the right window,” said the reporter from satellite giant Astro’s news channel.
Tan also said Noramfaizul — who worked in national news agency Bernama for 11 years — was the media team leader. “It was great knowing him through this mission.”
Aji, a 27-year-old TV3 cameraman who was injured through a gunshot, said he was sad at Noramfaizul’s death.
“I saw a hole in the late Noramfaizul’s right shoulder…he fell on me,” he told reporters, with a bandage around his right arm.
“I got basic training (before the mission),” added the reporter from the Umno-owned broadcaster, but did not specify the contents of the training.
Melissa Ong, a 27-year-old NTV7 newscaster and reporter, said the mission team always travelled in a convoy with other armed vehicles.
“A car would be guarding us with M16s, AK47s. Some of us sat in a bulletproof car; we rotate,” said Ong, who has three years’ experience in journalism.
Like Tan, Ong said the Somali mission was her first assignment in a conflict zone.
War-torn Somalia has not had a functioning government for more than 20 years.
International media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) rank Somalia as the deadliest country in Africa for media personnel, with 23 media workers killed since 2007.
“I didn’t have training. If we’re moving towards that humanitarian direction, we should be given proper training and guidance,” said the journalist from Umno-linked Media Prima Bhd