Reporters Without Borders today called on the transitional federal government to explain the detention of radio reporter Hassan Sade Dhaqane in Mogadishu since 9 March. It comes amid several cases of violence by government forces against Somali journalists in recent days and mounting hostility to certain media in the capital. Dhaqane works for the privately-owned Horn Afrik radio station.
“If there is no serious criminal charge against Dhaqane to justify keeping him in custody, he should be freed at once,” the press freedom organisation said. “He seems to have fallen victim to the desire of the government forces to punish a news media perceived as hostile. This climate of mistrust is disturbing, especially as government troops with little or no training in keeping the peace often continue to behave like militiamen. Orders should be given for journalists to be treated with respect when they are going about their work, despite the political rivalries.”
Dhaqane and several onlookers were arrested by government troops in the Mogadishu neighbourhood of KM 4 as he was covering a mine-clearance operation that had drawn a crowd. The government confirmed his arrest to Reporters Without Borders’ partner organisation in Somalia, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), but refused to say where he is being held. He has not been formally charged.
Three journalists with privately-owned Radio Shabelle - Ismail Ali Abdi, Mohammed Ibrahim Raggeh and Mohammed Ibrahim “Ruush” Ali - were assaulted yesterday by Somali troops posted at the entrance to the former defence ministry, which is being used as the headquarters of the Ethiopian troops still in Mogadishu. They had gone there to verify unconfirmed reports that the Ethiopian soldiers had left the building, but found themselves being punched and clubbed by the Somali guards until an Ethiopian officer intervened, checked their IDs and allowed them to leave.
Another Radio Shabelle journalist, Abdirahman “Al-Adala” Yusuf, was stoned by government troops while covering a story in the northeastern suburb of El-Irfeed on 11 March.
Radio Shabelle, Horn Afrik and other local and international news media including the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera are regarded by the government as being openly supportive of the Union of Islamic Courts, which was ousted from power last December. In mid-January, the government stopped three Somali radio stations and Al-Jazeera from working for 24 hours after they broadcast incorrect reports about the security situation in Mogadishu.