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Media Watchdogs Deplore Journalists' Killings in Somalia, Kenya

Media watchdogs, led by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, are condemning the latest killing of a journalist in Somalia and the murder of an investigative reporter in Kenya.

A journalist in the Somali capital Mogadishu says three masked gunmen approached the director of Horn Afrik radio in a busy open-air market Wednesday and opened fire.

The eyewitness, who declined to be identified, says Said Tahlil Ahmed, and several other local radio station directors were in Bakara market to attend a meeting called by the militant Islamist group, al-Shabab.

"We had been called by al-Shabab officials to attend a conference," said the eyewitness. "They said it would be held in Bakara. But as we were walking in the market with al-Shabab officials, I saw Said Tahlil Ahmed being shot. We run away and also we heard someone say, 'Shoot that one!'"

The second journalist targeted in the attack suffered a minor injury.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for more international support to protect journalists in Somalia, noting that Said Tahlil Ahmed was the 11th journalist killed in the war-torn country since 2007.

Al-Shabab denied it was behind the latest attack. But the head of Reporters Without Borders' Africa desk, Ambroise Pierre, says the al-Qaida-linked group did not approve of the local media coverage of last week's election of moderate Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed as the president of a new unity government in Somalia.

The government is being formed as part of a U.N.-sponsored reconciliation deal rejected by Al-Shabab and other militant Islamist groups.

"The Shabab group is often responsible for the killings of journalists and we know that the Shabab is unhappy with the election of Sheik Sharif," he said.

Elsewhere in the region, the decapitated body of Kenyan freelance reporter Francis Nyaruri, was found last week dumped in a forest in western Kenya. His hands were tied behind his back and family members say his body showed signs of torture.

They say the journalist had received death threats after he had written a series of newspaper articles that linked a local police chief to financial scams, extortion, and other criminal activities.

Pierre says he fears Nyaruri's murder could deter investigative journalism in Kenya.

"It is intimidation," he said. "It is something new in this country. The possibility of being killed for your reports is something that will surely threaten all the journalists in Kenya. So, we are very worried and concerned."

In December, the Kenyan parliament was severely criticized for pushing through a media bill that would give the government the power to license and control media companies and the content of their programs. President Mwai Kibaki says he will reconsider the legislation.