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Two Eritrean journalists captured in Somalia held with "foreign fighters"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called on the Somali and Ethiopian governments to explain why two Eritrean state TV journalists have been held in secret after being arrested late last year along with several Somalis and foreigners near the border with Kenya.

"Like many other foreign journalists, they were reporting on the situation in Somalia and were not foreign fighters, as those arrested with them appear to be," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "They were journalists from one of the world's most closed-off and repressive countries and we fear for their safety, whether they continue to be held or are returned to their own country."

"The Ethiopian and Somali governments must explain why they are not giving any information about them and must intelligently handle this dangerous situation for both journalists."

Saleh Idris Gama, of the Eritrean state-run Eri-TV, and cameraman Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi vanished in Mogadishu in late 2006 while covering fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts and the federal transitional government. The Somali government did not reply to a Reporters Without Borders request in February as to whether they were being held or had been killed in the fighting.

The Eritrean Foreign Ministry asked Kenya on 5 April 2007 to speedily obtain the release of three Eritrean citizens and send them home. It said Kenya had handed them over to the Somalis on 20 January after arresting them in late December and detaining them illegally for more than three weeks. It did not say what they were doing when they were picked up or where they were.

The third Eritrean, said by Eritrea to be Osman Mohammed Berhan, is not an employee of state-run Radio Dimtsi Hafash, contrary to earlier reports. In a letter to the opposition website ( ) from prison in Kenya on 18 January, he said his name was Samson Yeman Berhan and that he had been sent to Somalia by the Eritrean government under a false name along with other Eritreans.

Reporters Without Borders asked Somalia's National Security Agency on 4 April for information on the Eritrean journalists and for a phone number to call them, but the request was refused. They and the Somalis and foreigners arrested near the border have reportedly been transferred to a prison in Addis Ababa.

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