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Offices of journalists' union robbed by armed men, staff threatened

(IFJ/IFEX) - May 23, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the raid and robbery at the main office of its Somalia affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) as well as continued threats against members and the leadership of the union.

NUSOJ says four men armed with AK-47 guns and two accomplices raided the union main office at Taleex Street in Mogadishu where they told the security guard that they were NUSOJ staff to gain entry. After opening the door, they disarmed the security guard and ordered him to move aside.

Once inside, they took documents of the union which were on the shelves and 4 computers before escaping in a Toyota pickup. The security guard was ordered not to talk to anyone about the attack at the risk of losing his life.

"These actions are the latest in a series of persistent violations against the journalists union, its members and leaders that have continued in the past two months to deny journalists their right to freedom of association and expression," said Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary.

On Monday, two gunmen came back to the offices of the union and threatened three NUSOJ officials who had gone to investigate the robbery. The gunmen warned that anyone who comes to the offices of the union would be killed. "Anyone who does not like his life, let him come here and we will step on his dead body," said one gunman.

The three union officials were also told they risked their life if they continue to represent the union and its leadership in Somalia.

The IFJ is concerned about consistent politicised actions against NUSOJ members and its leadership to thwart them from carrying out their legitimate activities, which is a clear violation of their right to freedom of association and freedom of expression.

"We are very concerned about the safety of NUSOJ leaders and members and we shall do everything in our power to keep them safe and defend their legitimacy," added Costa.

The IFJ supported the General Assembly of NUSOJ, which took place on 14-15 March in Mogadishu, and fully recognised the outcome of this Assembly and endorsed the legitimacy of Abdirisak Omar Ismail, Chairperson of NUSOJ supreme council, and Omar Faruk Osman as NUSOJ Secretary General.

"The Transitional Federal Government has the primary responsibility to guarantee the security of journalists, including NUSOJ leaders and its members in the areas under its control. They need to investigate the raid on the union's office and bring the robbers to justice," declared Costa.

NUSOJ has been working in a temporary office in south Mogadishu for the last two years due to the lack of security at the main office, which is located in a combat zone between Al-Shabaab and transitional government forces.

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