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Groups Condemn Detention of Somali Journalist

  • Alan Boswell

Global media rights groups are condemning the arrest and detention of a Somali radio reporter by the al-Shabab rebels. Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist.

The National Union of Somali Journalists reports the Islamist militant group al-Shabab has imprisoned Ali Yusuf Adan, a radio correspondent for the private media broadcaster Somaliweyn.

International watchdog groups are decrying the abduction, which they say is part of a troubling trend in areas under the control of the al-Qaida-linked Somali rebels.

Gabriel Baglo, head of the Africa program for Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists, called for Adan's immediate release. He said the situation for journalists in Somalia right now is the most pressing on the continent.

"Somalia, in Africa presently, is the big concern. Every day we receive reports of threats from the al-Shabab group, calling journalists and threatening them not to report anything that would be critical to them or anything that they think that is not in agreement with their religious view," he said.

It is not known why Adan has been detained by the militants, but it is suspected to be related to a report he gave before his arrest Sunday in which he described the killing of a man by al-Shabab for being tardy to a mandatory prayer session. Al-Shabab has implemented a strict interpretation of religious sharia law in areas under its control.

Nine journalists were killed in Somalia last year, and many more were injured or forced to flee amid constant harassment.

But Baglo says that, although their numbers are dwindling, there remain a number of remarkably brave professionals who continue to do an admirable job under extremely harsh conditions.

"It is really difficult to practice independent journalism in Somalia presently," he added. "But we still have very courageous journalists who continue to do this work, and we need to really commend them and support them."

A report from U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warned the flow of journalists forced to go into foreign exile, along with the forced censorship of much of the local media under rebel control, is severely lowering the quality of Somali news that reaches the outside world.

The CPJ also reported that journalists with English-language skills were disproportionately likely to face intimidation or attacks in the Horn of Africa nation.

Al-Shabab, which espouses an arch-conservative form of Islam, is waging an intense insurgency against the Western-backed Mogadishu Transitional Federal Government. The Islamist rebels control much of the capital and most of southern Somalia.

The Transitional Federal Government, which is headed by former Islamist rebel Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, is propped up by an African Union peacekeeping force composed of Ugandan and Burundian soldiers.

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