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MEDIA OWNER MURDERED, JOURNALISTS ARRESTED

After the eighth slaying of a journalist in Somalia this year, on 19 October 2007, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) issued an urgent appeal for international measures towards the Somali government. Bashir Nur Gedi, acting head of Shabelle Media Network - the second biggest in the Horn of Africa - was the third media owner murdered by unidentified gunmen in the capital.

"Abandoned by the Somali authorities and their international partners, journalists have become key targets who are easily accessible," RSF said. "One after another, the country's leading media owners are being eliminated." RSF also condemned the continuing arbitrary arrests of journalists by local and federal authorities.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said young gunmen shot Gedi several times outside his Mogadishu home, killing him instantly. "This is an intentional killing that has political motives," NUSOJ said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that Gedi was returning home after holing up in the station's headquarters for a week with other employees due to threats, according to journalists who spoke with his family. More than a dozen staffers remained inside in fear of their lives, said Shabelle chair Abdimaalik Yusuf from exile in London.

NUSOJ said five journalists were arrested the same day as the killing, three of them from Radio Garowe in Puntland, the northeastern stronghold of the transitional government's president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Local journalists said an interview with the president's former security chief, who has broken with Ahmed, prompted the Puntland arrests. Two journalists were later released, but authorities closed the station and detained the third.

Two other journalists were arrested in Mogadishu, including NUSOJ member Abdirashid Abdulle Abikar, a stringer for Agence France-Presse (AFP), who was briefly detained after he photographed injured people in a hospital.

Radio Shabelle's critical reporting made it the target of frequent attacks from both government and opposition forces known as the Islamic Courts, according to the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net). More than a dozen journalists have been arrested this year and five others ambushed and robbed, AFP said. Dozens of journalists have fled Somalia in the past few months, EHAHRD-Net added.

Visit these links:
- NUSOJ/RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24098
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/africa/somalia19oct07na.html
- AFP/Media Channel: http://tinyurl.com/3yjeln
- Shabelle Media Network: http://www.shabelle.net/news/english.htm
- Human Rights Watch capsule report: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87163/
(Photo of Bashir Nur Gedi courtesy of Radio Shabelle)

(23 Oct. 2007)

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