New York, December 18, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by an upsurge in arrests and the harassment of journalists by rival groups battling for control of Somalia. Both the Islamists who hold Mogadishu and the U.N.-backed transitional government based in Baidoa, northwest of the capital, have cracked down on the press this month.
On December 17, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in Mogadishu detained leaders of the respected National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) at the airport. They prevented NUSOJ Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman from boarding a plane for Dubai, and also detained the union’s Organizing Secretary Ali Moalim Isak who had accompanied Osman to the airport, local journalists said. Both men were held without charge for nearly 12 hours in a police station where officials pressed Osman to reveal the passwords to his e-mail accounts, and questioned him about the purpose of his trip, he later told CPJ. Officials seized the journalists’ passports, cell phones, a laptop, and other documents. They have not been able to leave the country.