A human rights group is condemning, what it calls, “acts of lawlessness” targeted at Somali journalists. The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network says militiamen seized the Mogadishu office of the National Union of Somali Journalists July 3rd. It identifies the militiamen as belonging to the Islamic Courts Union.
Hassan Shire Sheik is chairman of the human rights group. From Kampala, Uganda, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the crackdown on Somali journalists.
“It’s very sad. The National Union of Somali journalists is the leading advocate when it comes to defending the rights of the Somali journalists, in particular, and the other human rights activists in general. Beginning last week, there has been an armed invasion…militia, some of them loyal to the Islamic Courts Union, forcefully entered the premises of the headquarters of the Somali Journalists Union organization and ordered through the barrel of a gun the executive committee meeting to be closed…and up to now, and which is already eight days, they are occupying the office of the journalists’ union unlawfully,” he says.
Sheik says the human rights groups and other organizations have appealed to the Islamic Courts Union to leave the building. He says the takeover has had a dramatic effect. “The work as we know, which was going on in Mogadishu now, has become a standstill. Only effective monitoring can be played out in exile. The secretary-general of the (journalists) union now is in London and he’s trying his best to get out some of the message.”
He says that besides taking over the office, the militiamen also seized all the documents and archives.