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TROOPS OPEN FIRE ON MEDIA HOUSE

Somalia's independent Shabelle media house said government troops surrounded its Mogadishu office today (18 September) and opened fire, wounding a security guard, report the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and news reports. The incident occurred days after security forces arrested 19 staff at Shabelle on 15 September.

"We do not know why they are targeting us," Shabelle acting manager Jafar Kukay told Reuters. Kukay said most of the staff were able to flee the office during a lull after two hours of shooting. The broadcaster was forced off the air and a security guard was wounded.

The shooting is the second time in less than a week that Shabelle came under attack from government troops. On 15 September, security forces fired into a hallway during an editorial meeting at the Shabelle office, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The staff were detained and harassed by the police at the central police station for more than two hours. The journalists were accused of throwing a grenade at a police patrol.

A Somalia Police spokesperson confirmed Saturday's raid but said it was an "unfortunate incident" carried out by "undisciplined elements within the security forces." He denied the allegations that the journalists threw grenades at the troops.

The chair of Shabelle, Abdmalik Yusuf Mohammed, has appealed to the transitional government to withdraw its forces stationed at the main gate of the radio station. Yusuf said the government soldiers are harassing any journalist entering the station's premises at Bakara market in downtown Mogadishu.

Hundreds of thousands of Mogadishu residents have fled fighting in the city since January, when the Ethiopian military put the transitional government in power. Top officials have accused independent broadcasters of bias, stoking tension and backing the militant Islamic opposition. Shabelle and two other independent outlets, HornAfrik and IQK Koranic Radio, were briefly banned and taken off air in January and June.

"Many Mogadishu-based journalists have been forced to flee the country due to the ongoing intimidation of journalists," says CPJ.

On 12 September, Somali soldiers carried out a mass arrest of 70 civilians in Bakara market, including Mohamed Hussein Jimaale, a correspondent from the news website Puntlandpost, reports Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). He was arrested while covering a police operation against suspected Islamist insurgents in the market, and held for five days.

CPJ reports that privately-run Global Broadcasting Corporation Radio and TV station closed down last month in Mogadishu, after more than 12 staffers fled due to heightened insecurity in the area.

Six Somali reporters have been killed so far this year in direct relation to their work, making it the second deadliest nation for journalists after Iraq, says CPJ.

Visit these links:
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5317&Language=EN
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/2of8lo
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23684
- NUSOJ: http://www.nusoj.org/
- Reuters: http://tinyurl.com/39jdms
(18 September 2007)

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