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CAPSULE REPORT: As attacks on media increase, IFJ calls for international action

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Campaign for Media Safety in Somalia

Violence in Somalia has been escalating, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says, and this has put enormous pressure on journalists reporting on the conflict for both Somali news organisations and international media.

"Journalists themselves have become targets," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White in a letter to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. "This year alone seven journalists and news professionals have been killed in Somalia, four of them in Mogadishu. I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to improve journalist safety in Somalia, where media workers are being threatened and killed with impunity."

The IFJ is calling on its member unions to also send letters of protest to Mr. Ban, calling on him and other members of the international community to intervene to end the violence and targeting of journalists.

The journalists face not only great danger but other forms of harassment and detention.

Eleven journalists have been arrested. Only a few of them have been charged officially and brought to court while the rest have been held without trial and cannot communicate with their families, colleagues or legal counsel. Five journalists have been ambushed and robbed.

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists, the IFJ affiliate in Somalia, four journalists have been tortured. Five news media outlets have been attacked: one was burned down while another was destroyed by missiles. Three other media institutions have been forced to shut down at some point this year.

The pace of attacks on media has been rising rapidly. The only constant is that, unlike other crimes committed against the rest of the civilian population, all of these crimes have gone unpunished. Both Somali and international authorities have ignored these crimes.

Despite this crisis and the constant death threats, detention and arrest that our colleagues in Somalia face, many of them are continuing to work independently despite the risk to their personal safety.

Mogadishu has experienced the worst press freedom violations, with journalists facing constant attacks, harassment, libel and intimidation. This has sent a chilling message to the journalist community there that not only will they not be protected but, in fact, they will be targeted if they publish investigative or critical articles. This has led to self-censorship, an exodus of journalists from their profession and crippled news dissemination.

"The press freedom situation has deteriorated tremendously [in Somalia] as there is no free reporting and . . . violence against journalists is rising day after day," said National Union of Somali Journalists Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman in the union's special report on attacks on journalists.

The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1738 last December, which says that in armed conflict situations journalists and media workers are considered civilians and that violence against them may be considered a war crime.

Mr. Ban, in a recent report on Somalia, has noted the attacks on journalists. We are now calling on him to act urgently to protect journalists and media freedom in Somalia.

The IFJ is urging the UN and other members of the international community to investigate immediately the attacks on journalists in Somalia and push Somali authorities to make press freedom and safety a priority.

To read the IFJ letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/SomaliaUNLetter070907.pdf

To read the NUSOJ report on Somalia:
http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/SomaliaUNLetter070907.pdf

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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