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Two journalists with popular radio network murdered; "a great blow to press freedom", says CJFE

(CJFE/IFEX) - The following is a CJFE press release:

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Saddened by Murders of Somali Journalists

(Toronto, August 13, 2007) CJFE was greatly saddened to hear of the murders of Somali journalists Ali Sharmarke and Mahad Ahmed Elmi on August 11. Ali Sharmarke was one of the three founders of the radio network HornAfrik and Mahad Ahmed Elmi hosted a popular radio show for the station.

HornAfrik has faced constant intimidation and threats since it opened in 1999; committed to providing a voice for all Somalis, it provides coverage and access to international and domestic coverage unavailable through other Somali media.

The killings of these two journalists, just hours apart, brings to six the number of journalists killed in Somalia this year. It is a great blow to press freedom in Somalia and a great loss to the journalistic community and all who knew them.

CJFE awarded the 2002 International Press Freedom Award to the three founders of HornAfrik - Sharmarke, and his colleagues Ahmed Abdisalam Adan and Mohamed Elmi. The award recognised HornAfrik, the first independent radio network in Somalia, for its work in the face of intimidation and threats in a society where there is no one to protest to, and no protection of freedom of the press.

All three journalists had fled Somalia and come to Canada as refugees, but they returned to Somalia to start HornAfrik. Elmi and Adan now live in Ottawa with their families. Mohamed Elmi, who was reached at his home today, said that it was too early to speak about the future of the radio station, but that it was important that it continue. He also commented on the support they have received from around the world, and from the Somali diaspora, which has cut across political lines.

"HornAfrik is a remarkable success story in one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to practice journalism," said CJFE Executive Director Anne Game. "Now, more than ever, Somalia and the world need voices like HornAfrik to be heard."

CJFE calls on the government of Somalia to make the safety of journalists its top priority and to ensure that a thorough and independent investigation is carried out into these murders. The Somali government says that two men have been arrested already.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.

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