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Al Shabab detains three journalists from Markabley Radio station

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 17 March 2010 - Al Shabab militants in the southern regions of Somalia arrested three journalists from Markabley Radio this week, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). Two of the three remain in custody and the station has been taken off the air in response to the detentions.

Mohamed Abdikarim and Mohamed Salad Abdulle, both reporters for the Bardera-based Markabley Radio as well as for other news outlets, were arrested in separate instances in Baladhawo town and Kismayo city on Monday 15 March, NUSOJ said in a statement yesterday.

Station director Ahmed Omar Salihi, who also reports for Mogadishu-based Shabelle Radio, was arrested yesterday and detained overnight before being brought before a Gedo court and released, local press freedom observers reported.

Abdikarim was detained in the town of Baladhawo after he aired a recording of local elders who were calling on the Somali government to better protect them from harassment by security forces on the Kenyan border, Ibrahim said. Al Shabab, which controls that region, apparently took offence at the reference to the Transitional Federal Government.

Abdulle, a stringer for Markabley Radio as well as the Somali Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Somaliweyn, was arrested in the port city of Kismayo after broadcasting a meeting of Hizbul-Islam, NUSOJ coordinator Mohammed Ibrahim told IPI by phone from Mogadishu. Hizbul-Islam is an Islamist militia and Al Shabab's main rival in the area.

Station director Salihi was arrested in Bardera the following day after refusing to allow Al Shabab representatives to listen to Abdulle's recorded voice, NUSOJ reported. Salihi, who also serves as the head of NUSOJ's Southwest Branch, was detained overnight and released at around noon today.

"My station unintentionally released a minor government story - that is why I was arrested," Ahmed Omar Salihi told the Somali Foreign Correspondents Association.

Following discussions between Salihi and other staff members, Markabley Radio decided to end its broadcasts for now, in protest at Al Shabab pressures and because it is impossible to avoid reporting news that mentions the government, Salihi reportedly told NUSOJ coordinator Ibrahim.

"IPI strongly condemns the arrest of Mohamed Salad Abdulle and Mohamed Abdikarim, and calls on the Al Shabab administration to release them – along with Ali Yusuf Adan, who was detained on 21 February," IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said. "Journalists have a right to report on matters of public interest. The Al Shabab militia continues to show contempt for any form of free media."

Al Shabab, which currently holds most of southern and central Somalia, as well as large portions of the capital Mogadishu, have controlled Bardera city since the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in early 2009.

Al Shabab ordered Markabley Radio to close in December 2008. The broadcaster was shut down for having breached earlier orders not to air music or other content deemed "un-Islamic." The station began broadcasting again three days later, after promising to abide by Al Shabab's edicts.

Somali radio journalist Ali Yusuf Adan, who was detained on 21 February by Al Shabab militia soldiers after filing two reports on executions by the ultra-conservative militants, is still in prison, according to Somali media reports.

Adan, 47, who worked for the private broadcaster Radio Somaliweyn in the west of the country, was detained 100 km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, and taken to prison in the port town of Merka, 100 km south of the capital. Although Al Shabab did not announce a reason for the arrest, fellow Somali journalists believe Adan was targeted for his reports on the alleged execution of a man who arrived late to mandatory Saturday prayers.

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