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Somalia24 September 2004

Militiamen raid radio station at behest of Islamic court and businessman

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a raid by militiamen on a local radio FM station in Mogadishu yesterday in which a security guard was roughed up and a journalist was threatened and detained. Ordered by a local Islamic court, the operation was prompted by a dispute between rival businessmen.

Although a transitional parliament was finally installed at the end of last month, Somalia continues to be run by armed groups. After years of war and the collapse of the state, some state functions are being carried out by Koranic justice and by local businessmen operating along clan lines.

"We continue to be horrified that the Somalian capital is still dominated by clan justice based on a military rabble that takes its orders," Reporters Without Borders said. "While waiting for the state to be rebuilt, we call on the Islamic courts, armed bands and businessman not to impose a reign of terror and to respect journalists."

The organisation also appealed to members of the transitional parliament to take full account of their responsibilities and not waste the opportunity they have been offered. "Somalis must at last be allowed to live in freedom, and journalists must therefore no longer have to fear this kind of summary and abusive pseudo-justice."

The raid took place shortly before noon yesterday when gunmen packed into two pick-ups stopped outside the studios of Idaacadda Quriaanka Kariimka (Radio Holy Koran) in the northern Mogadishu district of Towfiq. Announcing they had come to arrest the station manager on the orders of the Islamic district court, they roughed up the building’s security guard and accosted the only journalist present, Abdulrahman Abtidon Gabeire.

When Gabeire refused to accompany them to the office of the Islamic court, the militiamen slapped him, fired several shots in the air to intimidate him and then bundled him into one of their vehicles. He spent an hour in the district prison before being released.

The Islamic district court had acted at the request of a Mogadishu businessman who imports a brand of detergent to supply the Suuq Baiad market. A rival businessman bought advertising space on Radio Holy Koran advising consumers not to buy the detergent because it was "false". The enraged importer asked the station to withdraw the spot. When it refused, he turned to the Islamic court which immediately ordered the raid.

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