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IFJ opposes call by UN special envoy to suspend news reporting from Somalia

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 6 February 2009 IFJ media release:

IFJ Opposes Call for News Blackout on Somalia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today warned that a call by the United Nations Special Envoy in Somalia, Ahmed Ould Abdallah, to suspend news reporting from Somalia was an "ill-thought out and counter-productive" response to the media crisis in the country.

"We oppose this move because it will not work and could make the situation even worse for journalists," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "We know that the United Nations representative is acutely aware of the pressure and threats to Somali journalists, but trying to restrict the flow of information from the country will only play into the hands of the enemies of press freedom. It will do nothing to alleviate the suffering of our colleagues."

According to media reports, Mr. Abdallh said a "one month truce" is needed in reporting on Somalia so that foreign news networks can ensure they check the accuracy of information coming out of Somalia. He fears that because there are few foreign journalists inside the country, leading news organisations may become victims of media manipulation by political forces inside the country - even on a scale that could compare with the tragic events of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

"It's true that Somali criminals are targeting foreign journalists for kidnapping and are terrorising local news people," said White. "But a news blackout will provide perfect cover for criminals and will close the only window to the world open to those who are trying to tell the story of the crisis in Somalia and the humanitarian needs of the Somali people. News organisations inside and outside Somalia need to check facts and act professionally, even when the circumstances are perilous."

The IFJ yesterday called on the new government in Somalia to rein in criminal gangs who are terrorising media following the murder of Said Tahliil Ahmed, the second journalist to be killed in Somalia since the start of the year.

"No degree of self-imposed censorship will cure Somali political ills," said White. "The government and the international community must respond to the crisis and put in place the protection that society needs including defending the right of journalists to work without intimidation."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

For further information on the Tahliil Ahmed case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100534

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