CPJ, Reporters without Borders denounce attack on Somalia journalists, media

April 24th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

News releases April 23, 2007

Two private broadcast stations were destroyed and several journalists were injured last week as Ethiopian troops backing Somalia’s transitional government attacked suspected strongholds of Islamist fighters and militiamen from the Hawiye clan, according to news reports and local journalists.

HornAfrik television and radio””the first independent broadcaster in Somalia’s history”” has been off the air since several mortar shells destroyed its Mogadishu studios on Saturday, injuring cameraman Abdi Dhaqane and reporter Yahye Ali Farah, according to media reports and the National Union of Somali Journalists. Dhaqane, who is also a Reuters stringer, was flown to neighboring Kenya for treatment after losing a finger and sustaining a thigh injury, Reuters Chief East Africa Correspondent Andrew Cawthorne told CPJ. Farah was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries and released, Saeed Tahlil, the station’s deputy chairman, told CPJ. HornAfrik, which is respected for its own independent broadcasting, also rebroadcasts programs from the Voice of America, the BBC, CNN, and Sky News.

The neighborhood where HornAfrik is based was heavily shelled, a top station official said. “Even our electricity generator was hit today,”? HornAfrik Co-Director Ahmed Abdisalam Adan told CPJ. “We don’t understand the indiscriminant shelling of neighborhoods. It’s barbaric in this day and age, but we will not be silenced easily. We’ll set up the station somewhere else and do everything we can to continue reporting the news to the people.”?

Since it began broadcasting in 1999, HornAfrik has suffered harassment and attacks from clan militiamen, Islamists, and the transitional government, according to CPJ research. In February 2005, two unidentified men threw two grenades into the station’s offices, but there was no injury or damage.

Artillery attacks beginning Thursday and continuing through Sunday also destroyed the studios of the Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), a Mogadishu-based television and radio network, forcing the station to shut down, according to NUSOJ and local media reports. At least four journalists were injured and two security guards died in the attacks, GBC owner Dalmar Yusuf Ghelle told CPJ. It was not immediately clear whether the GBC attacks were targeted or the product of combat-related crossfire.

“The reprehensible destruction of the studios of HornAfrik and GBC deprives the Somali people and the rest of the world of essential information about the conflict,”? said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the transitional government and its Ethiopian allies to investigate these attacks.”?

Founded in April 2006, GBC offered Somali and Italian-language television programs and broadcast on the FM frequency through Voice of Peace Radio, according to Ghelle, also a British citizen. He did not have any immediate plans to reopen the station. “All of our equipment is gone, and there is no insurance in Somalia to recover our losses,”? he said.

In February, the transitional government had warned broadcasters to censor their coverage of government military operations and the flight of civilians from the capital.

— CPJ is a New York”“based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

NUSOJ, Reporters Without Borders Denounce violent attacks in Mogadishu
Reporters Without Borders and its partner organisation in Somalia, National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), are today outraged by the recent violence in Mogadishu and arbitrary shelling and shooting of civilians, including journalists and news media personnel.

On Thursday, 19 April, four shells hit the television studio and the newsroom of Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) in Mogadishu. Nobody was wounded in the shelling, but the broadcaster went off air.

On Saturday, 21 April, the premises of HornAfrik Radio was hit by seven shells, wounding two of its news media personnel. The station was temporarily shut down, due to the fighting going on in its neighbourhood.

Reporter Yahye Ali Farah was slightly injured and was admitted to Dayniile hospital, according to HornAfrik journalists, but cameraman Abdi Dhaqane who also works with the Nairobi bureau of the London-based international news agency, Reuters, was seriously wounded. Abdi lost some on the fingers of his right hand and tissues from his right leg, according to fellow journalists and sources at Reuters Nairobi bureau. Reuters Nairobi Bureau also told the NUSOJ that they evacuated Abdi Dhaqane to Nairobi today to provide him with proper medical care.

Heavy artillery fire also hit the headquarters of the Ayaamaha daily newspaper on Saturday, killing a passer-by.

Xog-Ogaal newspaper, one of the leading daily newspapers in Mogadishu and number of Mogadishu newspapers stopped publishing because of the increased fighting in the Somali capital.

Shabelle Media Network also reported its inability to provide to the public the variety of the news reports that it used to furnish as journalists fled from Mogadishu with their families.

“The recent warfare is a perfect example of the increasing risks faced by journalists and media outlets in Mogadishu”?, said Reporters Without Borders and National Union of Somali Journalists. “We call renewed attention to the fact that attacks against Somali journalists and media institutions are illegal under international humanitarian law, which protects civilian persons and objects”?. “The media can never be counted a legitimate target”?, said the two press freedom watchdogs.

Reporters Without Borders and National Union of Somali Journalists stated: “We firmly call for an independent enquiry into these renewed attacks on the press from the Transitional Federal Government, the Ethiopian forces and all other parts in the conflict. We ask the international community to help to determine what happened”?.

Reporters Without Borders contact address:
Email : afrique@rsf.org / africa@rsf.org
Web : www.rsf.org

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