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Press freedom organisation's leader sought by gunmen in Mogadishu

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the safety of the members of its partner organisation in Somalia, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), after unidentified gunmen threatened to kill one of its leaders, Ali Moallim Isak on 3 September 2007.

"Mogadishu's chronic violent crime makes journalists an easy target," the press freedom organisation said. "The NUSOJ has continued to work to defend the press, despite a wave of killings in which seven journalists have died since the start of this year. The government should adopt urgent protective measures to show that it wants to retain what is currently one of the country's best assets."

Two gunmen went to the NUSOJ office in Mogadishu on the morning of 3 September and asked to see Isak, the secretary for organisation, who was absent at the time. They went off and questioned several shopkeepers in the neighbourhood about Isak's habits. At around midday, a man called and threatened to kill him if he did not cease his activities, adding that he knew where he lived and worked.

At the time of the gunmen's visit, Isak had gone to see journalist Abdihakim Omar Jimale of privately-owned Radio Mogadishu, who was shot and wounded by unidentified gunmen on 10 August (see IFEX alert of 13 August 2007). The day after the attack on Jimale, the head of privately-owned Radio Capital Voice, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, was shot and killed as he was going to work. A few hours later the same day, Ali Iman Sharmarke, the head of privately-owned HornAfrik radio, was blown up by a bomb that had been placed underneath his car (see alerts of 14 and 13 August 2007).

In the past few months, Mogadishu's intellectual and media elite has been the target of a wave of killings that has accompanied the almost daily attacks on Ethiopian troops or the forces of the transitional federal government. A youth and an elderly man were gunned down for reasons still unclear on the night of 2 September. Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, also known as "Dhoobaale," a well-known teacher at the Somali Institute for Management and Administration, was killed on 3 September in the centre of Bakara market.

Reporters Without Borders supports the NUSOJ's appeal to the Kenyan government to allow Somali journalists to enter Kenya across the land border, which is currently blocked. According to the NUSOJ, at least 13 journalists have fled Mogadishu with the aim of seeking refuge in Kenya, which is the safest neighbouring country. But 10 of them are currently stuck at the border because Kenya has restricted visas for Somalis for security reasons.

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