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Somalia must release a journalist held by police for over two weeks after interviewing a woman who said she was raped by government troops, a press freedom group said on Monday.
Freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur, who works for several Somali radio stations as well as international media, was detained without charge on January 10 in the capital Mogadishu, according to Somalia's journalists' union.
“There is no legal basis for holding a journalist simply for conducting an interview,” the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote in an open letter on Monday to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, urging his release.
“This arrest sends a chilling message to the Somali media to self-censor any critical coverage of security forces,” the CPJ letter added, noting that Abdinuur remains in jail with limited access to a lawyer.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the CPJ last week issued a joint statement in which they said the arrest was “linked to increasing media attention given to the high levels of rape... including attacks allegedly committed by security forces.”
Somalia's journalists are reeling from a string of attacks, with at least 18 media workers killed last year.
Mohamed Ibrahim, secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, has criticised the jailing of Abdinuur, saying reporters in Somalia already “brave too many dangers”.
Somalia, which has been ravaged by relentless conflict since 1991, chose a new government in September in a United Nations-backed process, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled government.
It is hoped the new government will give the country its first effective central government since the fall of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
But it inherits a country racked by decades of war and an insurgency by the al-Qaeda-linked Shebab Islamists vowing to overthrow the Western-backed administration. - Sapa-AFP