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Somalia18 October 2004

Self-proclaimed president’s militia threaten, fire on journalist in Mogadishu

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an attack by militiamen working for businessman and self-proclaimed president Abdinur Ahmed Darman, who slapped, threatened and then fired on radio reporter Abdullahi Yassin Jama in Mogadishu on 16 October, after he and another journalist interviewed the inhabitants of a refugee camp.

"We once again protest against the regime of terror maintained by the faction chiefs in Somalia with complete impunity", the organisation said.

"The courage of Somalia’s journalists are a credit to a country devastated by 13 years of anarchy and war", Reporters Without Borders continued. "Abdinur Ahmed Darman should respect their work. Instead, the way his thugs assaulted and threatened a journalist bodes ill as regards his plans for Somalia."

The leader of the United Somali Republic Party (USRP), Darman had himself proclaimed president of Somalia by 5,000 supporters gathered in Mogadishu in July 2003. He and his militia exercise absolute power over certain districts of the capital and part of the south of the country.

A businessman with money more than a warlord, Darman said on his return from exile in 2003 that he was a "business deal facilitator." A UN report has accused him of being involved in forging money. He is one of the last clan chiefs to refuse to recognise the authority of President Abdullahi Yusuf, who was sworn-in before the new Somali parliament meeting in Kenya on 14 October.

Jama, who works for Radio Banadir, and Zeynab Abukar Mohammed, a journalist with HornAfrik Radio, had been interviewing civilian refugees in "Camp Bosnia" in Mogadishu whose homes had been devastated by heavy rain.

"As we finished our work, four gunmen took up position at the entrance to the camp and stopped me", Jama told the Somali Journalist Network (Sojon), a local press freedom organisation.

"They said to me, ’Show us your tape-recorder and your recording and it we hear one word about the government of Abdullahi Yusuf, you will lose you life.’" Mohammed had meanwhile hidden behind a kiosk after seeing her colleague had been detained.

Jama said that one of the militiamen then slapped him several times and placed the barrel of his gun against his head. When a woman’s voice was heard on the recording saying she hoped to be given a new home by the "Somali government in Kenya" (referring to the Abdullahi Yusuf government), Jama ran off while the militiamen fired shots at him with their Kalashnikovs as he fled. He was not hit. Mohammed did not leave her hiding place until the militiamen had left the camp. Both she and Jama are now safe.

In the face of the brutality of Somalia’s gunmen and the impunity they enjoy, Reporters Without Borders reiterated its appeal to parliamentarians and the new president to not waste the opportunity being offered them.

"The country needs to be rebuilt, and it cannot be done at the expense of journalists who, despite the constant violence, continue to do their work", the organisation said. It added: "The Somali press must not only be protected but also supported and listened to by those whose job it is to create a new Somalia."

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