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Three journalists, driver abducted; another journalist detained overnight, released without charge

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has condemned the 23 August 2008 abduction of Canadian female journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan at KM13, a western suburb of Mogadishu between Afgoye district and the capital city.

These two journalists arrived in Mogadishu on Wednesday 20 August. Lindhout, who is a Baghdad-based journalist, is freelancing for French TV station, France 24 and Canadian broadcaster, Global National News. Nigel Brennan is a freelance photographer for a news media organisation that was unidentified.

A Somali photojournalist, Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, who was assisting the Canadian and Australian journalists with translation and was taking photos from places where the two journalists could not go for security reasons, was also kidnapped. Their driver, Mahad, was also abducted with them.

NUSOJ has been investigating the case of the abduction since it emerged to determine the motive, to find the people responsible and whereabouts of the journalists and their driver. No formal claim of responsibility was made and the motive for the kidnapping remains unknown. As well, there have been no demands.

However, information received on 24 August states that Lindhout, Brennan, Elmi and their driver Mahad are being held by militias in Mogadishu, in a north-eastern neighbourhood of Suqa Holaha village. It is not clear whether they are being held for political purposes, as bargaining chips or for financial purposes. But journalists who spoke on condition of anonymity for their security said that the abduction seems like a pre-planned attack.

"We are appalled by this cruel abduction of journalists and call for the immediate release of our colleagues who are being held captive because of their noble work for Somali people," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

"We demand that those holding Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, Nigel Brenan and Amanda Lindhout free them unconditionally and immediately," Omar Faruk said. "We are worried about their safety as we have had no contact with anybody saying they are holding three journalists and their driver."

The journalists were abducted as they came back from interviewing and taking photos of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Afgoye district. "They were simply doing their job of reporting the story and presenting the plight of Somali people to the world," Omar Faruk declared.

In a separate attack, the TFG police arrested journalist Ahmed Jeylani of Radio Voice of Holy Kuran in the Bondhere district of Mogadishu on the evening of Friday 22 August 2008. The police detained the journalist overnight without charges and released him without stating the reason behind the arrest. "We deplore this despicable targeting of innocent civilians," said Omar Faruk.

"The Transitional Government has failed to implement its promises to the media after eight months in Office," said Omar Faruk. "Attacks from police and government militias against media are persistent, and this remains a major challenge to the credibility of the government".

"We call upon the transitional government, Mogadishu elders and intellectuals to stand up and take steps to protect all journalists from becoming victims of violence and intimidation," Omar Faruk Osman added.

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