Somali government detains three TV journalists

New York, April 11, 2007— Three journalists of Somali-language international broadcaster Universal Television were arrested in the capital Mogadishu in connection with questions they asked during a presidential interview, according to local journalists.

On Sunday, director Abdulkader Ashir Nadara, reporter Bashir Dirie Naleye, and cameraman Hamud Mohammed Osman of the London-based satellite network were exclusively invited to interview presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed Hubsireed and then arrested without charge, according to the same sources. They remain detained today without charge in a police station at Mogadishu’s airport, they said.

The move was allegedly linked to a question Nadara asked the spokesman about the role of the Ethiopian-backed transitional government in last week’s peace deal between Ethiopian troops and Mogadishu’s dominant Hawiye clan, newscaster Ahmed Tooyo told CPJ. The transitional government’s authority in Mogadishu is undermined by the Hawiye’s perception that it is dominated by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s rival Darod clan.

“It is outrageous that journalists invited to interview an official are arrested for merely asking a question about an issue of public interest,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The authorities must release Abdulkader Ashir Nadara, Bashir Dirie Naleye and Hamud Mohammed Osman immediately.”

Universal Television, which began operating last year, broadcasts 24 hours a day worldwide, Tooyo said.

Journalists in Somalia have been victims of official harassment in recent weeks. Last month, a journalist and a driver of leading independent broadcaster Radio Shabelle were detained for three days after responding to an invitation for an official press conference, according to CPJ research.