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Deadly edicts issued against press; journalist honoured

Independent media continues to be under threat in southern Somalia as a result of a recent outbreak of internal fighting last week between rival Islamist groups fighting for control of the town of Kismayo and its lucrative port, reports the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

On 5 October, Sheik Hassan Yacqub of the extremist group Al-Shabaab summoned journalists in Kismayo and read a number of edicts to be obeyed. Journalists have been commanded to either join Al-Shabaab and take part in the ongoing Jihad (Holy War) in Somalia or side with the opposing faction and leave town, reports NUSOJ.

NUSOJ said, "This amounts to a serious violation of freedom of expression. These barbaric acts against journalists must stop."

NUSOJ and the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) say journalists were also summoned in the Gedo region in south-western Somalia in September and ordered to comply with the same edicts. They also include orders that any journalist who criticises the Islamic administration will be killed; the media is not allowed to interview anyone from the Transitional Federal Government; and music should be replaced with Islamic songs.

Journalists working for media outlets in Mogadishu, Bossasso, Galkayo and Baidoa have been threatened with arrest and expulsion, according to NUSOJ. Many journalists have stopped reporting or fled the country.

But one journalist, a member of NUSOJ, has been internationally recognised for standing up to terror. Mustafa Haji Abdinur is being given the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2009 press freedom award. As a correspondent for Agence France-Presse in Mogadishu and editor-in-chief of independent radio station Radio Simba, Abdinur was a target of both Islamic insurgents and government authorities, says CPJ. He started Radio Simba in 2007 and it now reaches more than two million listeners.

Despite receiving death threats and seeing his colleagues from Radio Shabelle and HornAfrik killed, Abdinur is determined to stay in Mogadishu and report on the Somali crisis, while having to move his family outside the capital for their safety, according to CPJ.

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