Thursday, October 18, 2012

Somalia journalists protest "libelous Guardian article" -

Dozens of Somali journalists on Thursday held protests against an article in the British paper the Guardian in which the writer alleged Somali reporters to be corrupt and that many of them are killed for their involvement in graft.

The Guardian piece authored by London-based journalist Jamal Osman was entitled "Somali Journalists are dying of corruption as much as conflict" claimed that the majority of journalists killed in Somalia are murdered as a result of their involvement in corruption, a claim vehemently refuted by the country's journalist Union.

"We think saying that Somali journalists are involved in corruption and that they are killed because of it is something we cannot comprehend. Somali journalists are killed by those who want to silence them and Jamal and by extension the Guardian are justifying the killing of Somali journalists," Mohamed Ibrahim, leader of National Union of Somali Journalists said during the protests in Mogadishu.

Somali journalists carried banners and placards that condemned the content of the piece run by the British newspaper and authored by a London-based journalist Jamal Osman, who often reports from Al-Shabaab held areas for the Guardian Newspaper and Channel 4, a British TV station.

Some of the banners and placards that protesting journalists carried read: "Jamal Osman justifies killing of Somali journalists," "Shame on you, Guardian" and "Somali journalists are protesting against libelous article by so-called journalist Jamal Osman."

The protest was held at a restaurant in Mogadishu where the latest deadly attack against Somali journalists took place last month in which three journalists were killed when twin suicide attackers targeted the Village Restaurant, an up-market Cafe frequented by reporters.

The Guardian article came at a time when Somali journalists suffered the deadliest year with the brutal killing of 15 of them at the hands of the group of Al-Shabaab, according to the Somali journalists union.

"This is a libelous and cruel piece by a man with an agenda to divert attention from the real murders of Somali journalist and accuse them of contributing to their own death. This is cruel, unprofessional and unjustified," said Mohamed Nuhurkey, a local freelance journalist at the protest.

The Somali Journalist Union announced that the Union as well as its members and the wider journalist community were severing their relations with the Guardian and Channel 4 and demanded an apology from the Guardian and called for an investigation into "the libelous piece." 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Swedish journalists tell of time in Ethiopia jail - BBC News -


Swedish reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson (R) arrive at Arlanda airport in Stockholm September 14, 2012.Martin Schibbye (L) and Johan Persson arrived back in Sweden in September after more than 400 days in an Ethiopian jail

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Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye have been speaking to the BBC about their time in prison in Ethiopia.
They were recently freed after serving more than 400 days of an 11-year sentence.
The pair were found guilty of entering the country illegally and supporting a rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
Their lengthy jail terms put the treatment of journalists in Ethiopia under the international spotlight.
Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were captured along with ONLF rebels in June 2011.
They maintained that they were only doing their jobs, and human rights group Amnesty International said the journalists had been prosecuted for doing "legitimate work".
But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon previously defended the decision to jail the pair, saying the journalists were caught "red handed" co-operating with "terrorist organisations".
Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reportedly pardoned the journalists before his death in August, leading to their release.
'Rats, fleas and sick people'
Johan Persson told the BBC World Service programme Newsday that conditions in the prison in which hey were held were poor.
"It was 200% overcrowded. It was very hot. There was a lack of water. It was dusty. There were rats, fleas and many people were sick with HIV or tuberculosis," he said.
But he said the conditions were not as significant as the other inmates: "What's interesting is who they put in there: journalists and the political opposition."
Although the pair admit that they entered Ethiopia illegally, they argue that their trial was unfair.
"The trial was a joke," said Mr Persson. "Meles Zenawi was saying on national television, three or four weeks before the trial started, that we were guilty."

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As long as governments make laws to protect themselves against journalists, our job is to break those laws. I would do the same again today”
Johan Persson
They also believe the charge of moral support for terrorism, of which they were found guilty, has been misused against other journalists in Ethiopia.
"For the last few years Ethiopia has been using its anti-terror legislation to crack down on the media and to crack down on journalism," Mr Schibbye told Newsday.
The freelance reporters had been in the Ogaden, an ethnic Somali region in eastern Ethiopia, for four days before they were arrested.
"The Ethiopian army spotted us. Then they followed in our footsteps for three to four days. Then they ambushed us.
"We were attacked by about 150 Ethiopian army soldiers who opened fire on us. We got hit quite quickly. I got hit in the shoulder and Johan got hit in the arm. Somebody shouted, 'media, media, international press,' and we were arrested," said Martin Schibbye.
'No regrets'
After their arrest they said they were ordered at gunpoint to take part in a film supposedly documenting their relationship with the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
"Two civilians, who we'd never seen before, were dressed up as rebels. The soldiers gave them guns and stood them in front of us, and they testified against us and said that we came with them from Somalia," says Mr Schibbye.
The journalists allege that senior Ethiopian civilian officials were in charge of the filming.
"This was not being done by some crazy militia: the director was the vice president in the region, and in the evening the regional president called us and said, 'We are not satisfied by your performances in the film,'" said Mr Schibbye. Eventually the film was used against them in court.
Ethiopia's eastern Ogaden region has been the focus of an insurgency by local ethnic Somalis.
"We were walking through villages where there had been people living till recently, but now they had fled, forced out by the conflict. There was heavy fighting and that was one of the reasons why we were detected and followed and ambushed by the Ethiopian army," Mr Persson said.
Despite spending more than a year n prison, they say they have no regrets their time in Ethiopia.
For Martin Schibbye, the work of foreign correspondent is one that requires taking risks and refusing to accept there are areas closed to journalists.
His colleague agrees: "As long as governments make laws to protect themselves against journalists, our job is to break those laws. I would do the same again today."

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