IFJ Condemns Somali Government, Militia Attacks on Media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Somali government and the militias for their recent acts of intimidation and violence against journalists and urged officials to respect freedom of the press as they deal with political and military conflict in the country.

“Recent events in Somalia show that the government and the militias are attacking freedom of the press in an effort to control news reports both inside and outside of the country,” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa office. “These events have created an atmosphere of danger and uncertainty for media staff.”

On June 1, Maryan Mohammud a journalist for Mogadishu-based Radio Shabelle was violently beaten by militiamen and prohibited from reporting in Baidoa. This attack is said to be linked to interviews she conducted with members of the Somali Parliament who were critical of the Parliament’s Speaker.

On June 18, gunmen shut down the Baidoa sub-division of Radio Shabelle. Two journalists, Mohamed Addawe and Ali Jey, were briefly detained during the raid by gunmen who carried orders given by the Minister of Farming and the acting Minister of Interior, Colonel Hassan Mohammed Nur.

On June 23, freelance Swedish cameraman Martin Adler was shot by an unknown assailant during a demonstration organised by the Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu. His brutal murder is still unsolved.

On July 27, New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman, Times photographer Jehad Nga and Somali journalist Abukar Mohammed Abdirahman were taken by government soldiers in battle-wagons from a compound belonging to the United Nations Children's Fund and questioned for about an hour. They were then released and Gettleman and Nga were able to leave the country.

Reuters said its journalists visiting Baidoa last week were forbidden from taking pictures by government minders. According to a Reuters report, the new Islamist rulers of Somalia's capital Mogadishu are saying that the government has militia and Ethiopian troops in the city to provide support in case of conflict.

“Political pressures are leading the government to stifle press freedom and control the media,” said NUSOJ’s General Secretary Omar Faruk Osman. “Journalists are practicing self-censorship because they fear for their lives”.

A declaration produced at the end of NUSOJ General Assembly on July 21 in Baidoa condemned all violations of freedom of expression in the country and urged the authorities to bring the individuals behind the unpunished crimes against journalists to justice.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries