Journalist held by government after Islamist town falls

New York, January 4, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that Somalia’s transitional government in the southern city of Baidoa detained a radio reporter covering fighting between government forces and Islamist militiamen.

Local journalists and the National Union of Somali Journalists said Hassan Mohammed Abikar, a correspondent for the Mogadishu-based private radio station IQK (Holy Quran Radio), was arrested in Burhakaba, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Baidoa, on January 1. He has been held incommunicado without charge.

Sources at the radio station said Abikar was detained after the Islamists lost control of Burhakaba. CPJ could not reach transitional government authorities today for comment.

“We call on the transitional government to release Hassan Mohammed Abikar who has now been held for four days without charge or access to a lawyer,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The government must guarantee press freedoms in line with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Charter, and ensure that journalists can report freely on the country’s conflict.”

Somali troops, backed by Ethiopian forces and tanks, have routed Islamist leaders from Mogadishu and other strongholds in southern Somalia in fighting that erupted December 20.