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With two more journalists killed in Somalia, UN urges ‘decisive action’ to protect media

With two more journalists killed in Somalia, UN urges ‘decisive action’ to protect media

A senior United Nations official has called for decisive action to ensure the freedom and safety of the media in Somalia following the weekend killing of two prominent journalists in the strife-torn Horn of Africa country.

“The violent events of the last days show how vulnerable freedom of expression remains in Somalia,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Eric Laroche said in a statement strongly condemning the murders.

“The Transitional Federal Government is responsible for ending impunity for attacks on journalists by conducting prompt and impartial investigations and preventing any form of harassment of the media,” he added, calling on all authorities and other groups in the faction-ridden country to respect the right of all to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information through any media.

HornAfrik Radio journalist Mahad Ahmed Elmi was gunned down by four unknown men on Saturday and Ali Iman Sharmarke, founder and chairman of HornAfrik, was reportedly killed in his car by a remotely detonated device as he returned from his colleague’s funeral. Two other journalists travelling in Mr. Sharmarke’s car escaped with injuries.

Mr. Sharmarke was a Somali-Canadian who returned to Mogadishu nine years ago to establish and manage the media group, which works regularly with the UN on AIDS and mine awareness, child soldier recruitment and other programmes.

Both victims were respected figures among Somali journalists who strive to keep alive freedom of information and principles of impartial and accurate reporting in the country, which has seen a resurgence of violence since the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) drove Islamist groups out of Mogadishu, the capital, last December.

A third journalist, Abdihakim Omar Jimale, from Radio Mogadishu, was also the victim of an assassination attempt on Friday evening and is still under medical supervision for his injuries.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the crimes, the most recent in a spate of attacks against the media which brings to six the number of journalists killed this year in a country that has had no functioning central government since the regime of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

On Friday morning nine journalists and other workers of Radio Shabelle were seized for several hours without court order by a senior police officer who was looking for the journalist who had just broadcast a report about a security-related event the night before.

The journalist, Mohamed Abdi Farah ‘Afgoye,’ has been in hiding since and fears for his life. The same radio station had been threatened a few days before by a foreign diplomat whose threats were recorded and broadcast by the station.

Meanwhile, in a closed meeting today, the Security Council was briefed by François Lonsény Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, on recent developments in the country.

Last week, Mr. Fall called on the TFG to invite opposition groups to join the reconciliation meeting taking place in Mogadishu.

“We would like to see the stakeholders who renounce violence inside and outside the country take part in this process,” he said in an address to the National Reconciliation Congress.

He also urged participants to discuss all outstanding issues, including power-sharing and disarmament.