The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and Reporters Without Borders welcome the release today of British reporter Colin Freeman and Spanish photographer José Cendon, both employed by the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Freeman and Cendon were kidnapped as they left from their hotel in Bosasso, in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, on 26 November. They had been in Bosasso for about a week to report on piracy.
“While we welcome the release of Freeman and Cendon, it is intolerable that journalists are kidnapped for ransom in connection with their legitimate work,” NUSOJ secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman said.
“We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of three journalists - Amanda Lindhout, Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi and Nigel Brennan - who were abducted in Mogadishu on 23 August,” Faruk added.
27.11.08 - Two foreign journalists kidnapped in Puntland
Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about yesterday’s abduction of two foreign journalists - a Briton and a Spaniard - in Bosasso, the business capital of the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Puntland. Two Somalis were with them when they were kidnapped.
“This abduction is a reminder that banditry, piracy and politically-motivated crime pose a constant threat to foreigners - journalists and humanitarian workers - who go to Somalia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We pin out hopes on the competent authorities, who should be aware that time is the key factor in achieving a positive outcome in this kind of case.”
Gunmen intercepted the two journalists at around 10 a.m., shortly after they had left their hotel in central Bosasso, on Puntland’s northern coast, to go to the airport to fly to Djibouti. The British journalist’s identity is known but his employer does not want the media to name him. His Spanish colleague is freelance photographer José Cendón. Both were covering piracy in the Gulf of Aden. It is believed they are still being held in the area.
One of the two Somalis with them when they were abducted was their fixer. The other one was understood to be a journalist. Their identities cannot be published for security reasons. There is so far no independent confirmation as to whether they are currently also being held against their will.
Torn by clan rivalry and the greed of uncontrolled armed gangs, Puntland is used as a base by the “families” responsible for hijacking civilian vessels and organising smuggling between Somalia and Yemen. The area is also the fief of Abdullahi Yusuf, the president of Somalia’s transitional federal government.
Three journalists and six humanitarian workers are currently hostages in the southern part of the country. Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout, Australian photographer Nigel Brennan and Somali journalist Abdifatah Elmi have been held by an independent militia in Mogadishu since 23 August. Two foreign employees of Médecins du Monde were kidnapped near the Ethiopian border and four Action Against Hunger employees were kidnapped at Dhusa Mareb airport, to the north of Mogadishu.
French freelance journalist Gwen Le Gouil was held hostage for eight days at the end of last year while in Bosasso to do a story on the smuggling of illegal migrants across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, a crossing in which many lose their lives.
This lucrative trade is controlled by small bands based on clan ties and backed by their own militias. The local authorities struggle to control the situation in the region, where a sizable proportion of the population lives off these various criminal activities.