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Somalia27 November 2006

Journalist who reported “massive” Ethiopian presence held by pro-government militias for three days

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest and mistreatment of Abdullahi Yasin Jama of privately-owned Radio Warsan by militiamen loyal to the federal transition government in the western city of Baidoa, who held him for three days and abused him physically after luring him to the presidential palace on 24 November with an invitation to an non-existent news conference.

“The treatment Jama received was disgraceful,” the press freedom organisation said. “His arrest and use as a plaything by militiamen was an act of the utmost cowardliness. Somalia’s journalists, who are trying to cover a war consisting of lightning raids, betrayals and news manipulation, must be left in peace by the belligerents, as the population has a right to know what is going on in their country. The transitional government cannot claim to want to bring democracy to Somalia while tolerating such behaviour.”

Jama, who is also a correspondent for the Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), a privately-owned radio station based in the northern city of Bossasso, received a call from a security official shortly after midday on 24 November inviting him to a news conference. Pro-government militiamen arrested him when he arrived at the presidential palace and took him to their base, where they repeatedly abused and humiliated him.

Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary-general of the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), said Jama was arrested for reporting the “massive presence” of Ethiopian troops in Somalia. The NUSOJ’s attempts to get the transitional government to free him met with rebuffs or expressions of bad faith, with officials claiming they were “unaware” of the case.

Jama was finally released today after Baidoa city elders interceded on his behalf, but he is still under surveillance by the militias and fears further reprisals.

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