Journalist harassed over radio report

New York, March 2, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the detention of Abshir Ali Gabre, news editor at the independent Radio Jawhar, who was recently held overnight on the orders of Somali faction leader Mohamed Omar Habeeb, also known as Mohamed Dere. Dere is chairman of the self-appointed Jawhar administration.

Gabre was arrested at the radio station on February 24 at about 8 p.m. and detained for around 14 hours in connection with a report that he had just broadcast, according to local journalists’ organizations. During the report, the journalist pointed out that Dere and his allies had signed a January 29 peace agreement in Kenya, even though he had recently stated that he did not support the accord.

Somalia has had no central government since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 and is divided between rival faction leaders. Peace talks between the main faction leaders and the weak, Mogadishu-based Transitional National Government have been ongoing for more than a year in Kenya. In January, all the main faction leaders signed an agreement to create a new national parliament that will in turn elect a president.

Gabre was taken to a police cell and detained overnight. The police station commander told Gabre that Dere had ordered his arrest, according to the Somali Journalists Network (SOJON). Gabre was questioned repeatedly about why he had read the offending report.

Following a recent visit to Jawhar, which is about 56 miles (90 kilometers) north of the capital, Mogadishu, SOJON said that journalists there were “censored daily” by Mohamed Dere, with the militia regularly going to Radio Jawhar, the only station in the region.