Mogadishu, 5 Sept. 2007 - The wave of terror meted out to journalists in the Somali capital Mogadishu has forced 30 of them to flee into the neighbouring countries. Before fleeing the country some days back, the journalists have reportedly received death threats.
Over the years, journalists have come under serious attacks in the form of killings, harassments or intimidations. Media watchdogs have chronicled the assassination of seven Somali journalists in 2007.
Ten Somali journalists have reportedly been stranded at the Kenya/Somali border that have been closed since an operation to flush out the Islamic Courts Union led by Ethiopia was launched in December 2006.
Amid heavy fighting, the Islamists have been pushed from power resulting to the installation of the transitional federal government.
The National Union of Somali Journalists issued a statement, expressing concern over the worrying trend.
Through its Scribe, Omar Farum Osman, the union has appealed to the transitional government to help facilitate the safety entry of the stranded journalists into Kenya. The union has equally reminded Kenya that it has an international obligation to open its border for these civilian people as well as allow them to legally reside in the country.
Mr Osman said they are concerned about the security of the fleeing journalists, which is why they are requesting the international community to pay close attention to the humanitarian crisis.
The leader of Somali journalists union, Ali Moallim Isak, has also received anonymous threatening telephone calls. Also, two men stormed the union office in Mogadishu, searching for Ali.
“We condemn these threats against Ali and express our solidarity with him and his colleagues working in this chaotic situation,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “Ali and his colleagues are now targeted because their work disturbs some people who claim they are fighting for democracy but ignore the fact that press freedom is one of the bases of democracy.”
The union's Organising Secretary, Isak, has also received anonymous calls, warning him to stop what he is doing otherwise he will be “under the ground” because they where his residence.
While he was at the hospital visiting a journalist shot last month, unidentified gunmen arrived at the journalists union, asking for Isak. The union said it does not know the specific reasons that might have triggered threats on Ali's life.