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Italy19 March 2004

Official enquiry brings hope 10 years after murder of journalists

Reporters Without Borders today expressed its support and set out its expectations of the Italian parliament’s investigation of the murder of two journalists in Mogadishu, Somalia on 20 March 1994.

Those who died were reporter Ilaria Alpi of the state-run TV station RAI 3 and Slovenian cameraman Miran Hrovatin.

"These unpunished killings are a stain on the history of press freedom," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Carlo Taormina, head of the commission of enquiry. "You have the authority, the means and the duty to find out the truth. The commission is the last chance to do so."

The 20-member enquiry, set up on 31 July last year, began work last 21 January with full legal powers and will present its conclusions in September. Ménard asked to be kept informed of its progress.

Many indications, including shortcomings, contradictions and vagueness in the initial enquiry, suggest the journalists were murdered for investigating the illegal flow of arms and toxic waste between Italy and Somalia under cover of Italian development aid.

The deputies are charged with examining this lead that could implicate top political, military and business figures in both countries. They are also to assess the part played by several Italian institutions during the enquiry, which was marred by irregularities.

At this stage, the enquiry commission is to focus on the circumstances of the death of the two journalists to determine whether the double murder was premeditated. The March 1994 autopsy report on Alpi will be taken into account by the commission. This report, which was lost for 10 years, shows she was executed and Taormina has asked for the body to be exhumed for new tests.

A Rome court confirmed on 26 June 2002 that Hashi Omar Hassan, a Somali, had been among the killers but commuted his life sentence to 26 years in prison because it said the murders were not premeditated.

Reporters Without Borders will be co-sponsoring the 10th Ilaria Alpi Prize for investigative journalism and independent filmmaking, which will honour the two journalists in Riccione (Italy) on 2-5 June this year.


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