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04 December 2006 - IFJ Calls for the Release of Journalist Held in Somalia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the immediate and unconditional release of the journalist Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled, who is being held by the authorities in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, Somalia on claims he aired reports allegedly supporting the Islamic Courts.

Guled, a stringer for the Mogadishu-based radio station Simba, was arrested in the north-eastern town of Bossasso on 1 December by the Puntland Intelligence Service.

The reasons for his arrest have not been announced but, according to sources, he is being detained because of his report on radio Simba on 1 December that a demonstration to support the Islamic Courts would be organised by religious leaders in Bossasso. Sources also confirmed that Guled is accused of establishing and airing in Bossasso a branch of the Galkayo-based Radio Voice of Peace, which the authorities said he did not have prior authorization to do.

"We call on the authorities of Puntland to release immediately and unconditionally Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "We condemn this attempt to control the media and to intimidate journalists."

A Puntland authority, who spoke to National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) on condition of anonymity, said that investigations are ongoing and if Guled is found to have had relations with the Islamic Courts Council, he would be prosecuted for endangering national security and territorial integrity.

"On behalf of Somali journalists we robustly deplore this act of suppressing the independent voice of journalism," said Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of the NUSOJ.

The IFJ also condemned the arrest and intimidation this weekend of Massimo Alberizzi, a reporter for Italy's /Corriere della Sera /newspaper, by the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu.

According to Reuters, Alberizzi was arrested at his hotel and driven to an empty airstrip where he was questioned about his reporting, including reports on support that Eritrea may have given the Islamists. He was later taken back to a hotel under armed guard and released. He left the country on Sunday on a U.N. flight bound for Nairobi.

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