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NUSOJ outraged over wave of violations against independent media in Kismayo

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has expressed outrage and is alarmed by continuing violations against the independent media in Kismayo town, southern Somalia.

Serious press freedom violations have been reported in Kismayo since the recent eruption of internal fighting between rival Islamist groups battling for control of the town and its lucrative port.

The worst press freedom violations occurred on 5 October 2009, after the press secretary of the Kismayo Administration under Al-Shabaab, Sheik Hassan Yacqub, summoned journalists in Kismayo and read a number of edicts Al-Shabaab wants to have implemented. The edicts included an order that journalists either join the Al-Shabaab and take part in the "Jihad" (Holy War) going on in Somalia, or choose to be with the opposing side and leave the town altogether. Those of the opposing view will not be allowed to stay and work in the town, according to Yacqub.

NUSOJ is perturbed that a number of journalists, representing various media organizations in the town, received threats ranging from arrest to expulsion. The affected journalists work for media houses in Mogadishu, Bossasso, Galkayo and Baidoa.

After the oppressive edicts were issued, many journalists decided to stop their journalistic work and some have already fled the country fearing for their safety.

"We are condemning this culture of issuing edicts and threats against journalists in Kismayo town in the strongest terms possible. This amounts to a serious violation of freedom of expression. These barbaric acts against journalists must stop forthwith," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary-General.

NUSOJ notes with great concern that this development comes less than one month after the Al-Shabaab, in September, issued very restrictive edicts to journalists in Gedo region. There is only one radio station in Kismayo owned by the Al-Shabaab administration.

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