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Somalia4 February 2005

Journalist allowed to go back to work after more than four months of banishment

The head of security in the Middle Shabelle region, who is also the brother of local chief Mohamed Omar Habeb, gave his permission for journalist Abdiqani Sheik Mohamed to go back to work yesterday, the Somali Journalists Network (Sojon), a local press freedom group, announced to Reporters Without Borders. Mohamed, who used to work for privately-owned Radio Banadir, had been living in precarious circumstances in internal exile in Mogadishu since a decree issued on 27 September 2004 banned him from "practising his trade." The local authorities had threatened him with reprisals if he did not comply.

24.11.2004 - New premier asked to intercede in case of journalist banned by clan chief

Reporters Without Borders today wrote to Somalia’s new prime minister, Ali Mohamed Geedi, asking him to ensure that radio reporter Abdiqani Sheik Mohamed is allowed to return and work in the Middle Shabelle region where local authorities physically attacked him and then banned him in September.

The organisation explained in its letter that it already wrote to the leading clan chief in Middle Shabelle, Mohamed Omar Habeb, also known as "Mohamed Dhere," but got no reply. Prime Minister Geedi heads a transitional government that is temporarily based in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

"Aware of the authority you enjoy with Mr. Habeb, Reporters Without Borders would like to ask you to do everything in your power to ensure that Mohamed is allowed to return to Jowhar and resume working safely, and do so unconditionally," the letter to Geedi said.

According to sources in Mogadishu, Mohamed recently received a conciliatory offer from the Jowhar authorities under which he would be allowed to return and work, but only if he signed an official request for amnesty. "However, in our view, Mohamed has not committed any wrong requiring an amnesty," Reporters Without Borders said in its letter to Geedi.

Mohamed’s problems began when he reported on 26 September on Radio Banadir, one of the radio stations he works for, that the elders of the Jowhar community had asked the committee running one of the city’s mosques to resign in favour a new committee that had their approval and that of the local authorities.

After the report was broadcast, Mohamed was stopped and beaten by Mohamed Dhere’s militiamen on the main road in Jowhar. The next day, Dhere’s spokesman issued a decree saying that Mohamed was "no longer recognized," that he was henceforth "forbidden" to practice his profession and that the Middle Shabelle authorities would consider themselves "attacked" if he failed to comply. Since then, Mohamed has taken refuge in Mogadishu.

It so happens that Mohamed Dhere is very close to the new prime minister and they both belong to the same sub-clan. Dhere agreed to resign as a member of parliament so that Geedi could take his place and thereby be elected to the post of prime minister.

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