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Rights Groups Condemn Recent Media Attacks In Somalia

Two media watchdogs are condemning recent attacks against print and broadcast media organizations in Somalia's capital. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi they are calling for a full investigation by Somalia's transitional government.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization in Somalia, the National Union of Somali Journalists, say they are outraged by the attacks.

Last Thursday, four shells hit the television studio and newsroom of the Global Broadcasting Corporation, forcing it to go off air.

On Saturday, the HornAfrik Radio building was hit with seven shells, injuring two journalists. One of the journalists is a cameraman who works with the Nairobi bureau of the London-based international news agency Reuters. He lost some fingers on his right hand and tissues in his right leg.

Also on Saturday artillery hit the headquarters of the Ayaamaha Daily newspaper. The Xog-Ogaal newspaper has stopped publishing because of the volatility in Mogadishu, and Shabelle Media Network says it has cut down on the variety of news it provides because most of its journalists have fled the violence.

The head of the Africa desk of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Leonard Vincent, tells VOA he believes that the attacks against the media buildings were not accidental.

"We believe that there has been also some targeted shelling of media houses and that the Ethiopian forces and the Somali government might have used these media houses as targets," said Vincent.

"There is one thing to believe that some media have a political role and in the midst of the violence could be dangerous tools in the hands of one of the belligerents. But it is another thing to target militarily these media houses," he added.

Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Somali Journalists have called for Somalia's transitional government and Ethiopian troops stationed in Mogadishu to fully investigate these incidents.

Meanwhile, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders called for all parties in the conflict to respect its medical humanitarian work, following a mortar attack on a clinic in the neighborhood of Yaqshid in Mogadishu.

No one was injured in the attack that occurred last Friday.

The warfare devastating Mogadishu began late last year when Somalia's transitional government called for Ethiopian troops to help chase away the Islamic Courts Union.

Although the Islamists were eventually defeated, Ethiopian troops remained in Somalia. Insurgents have been attacking the troops and 1,500 Ugandan soldiers stationed in Mogadishu as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates that at least 321,000 people have fled Mogadishu since February.

Since Somalia's civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub-clan-based factions have controlled different parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order or basic services to the population.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than two years ago, following a regionally led peace process.