September 27, 2007 / 10:04 AM / 12 years ago

Press group deplores attack on Somali media boss

NAIROBI, Sept 27 (Reuters) - A press watchdog has condemned the attempted murder of a Somali journalist working for an independent media house targeted in a government crackdown.

Somalia’s interim administration raided Shabelle media in Mogadishu last week, briefly arresting 18 staff and then spraying the building with gunfire during a second visit.

The watchdog Reporters Without Borders said the broadcaster’s acting manager Jafar Kukay was then the target of an attack on Monday this week by a gunman who fired a pistol at him twice but missed.

"Caught in the crossfire of targeted killings and arbitrary arrests, Somali journalists have reached a critical threshold that is threatening the survival of an independent press in Somalia," the press group said in a statement on Thursday.

"The transitional federal government’s failure to take action in these circumstances in incomprehensible."

Shabelle has been off air since last week’s raids, and Reporters Without Borders said the station’s employees were either in hiding or trying to flee the country. Kukay could not immediately be reached for comment.

A security guard was wounded during the Sept. 18 siege at Shabelle, which — with other independent local media — has been accused by the authorities of supporting insurgents and had already been taken off the air twice this year.

Reporters Without Borders said the attempted on Kukay’s life brought the number of attacks against journalists in the Somali capital since January to four.

Two journalists were killed in these attacks, it said, while 13 of Mogadishu’s 16 district commissioners or their deputies had been murdered in similar circumstances.

On Saturday, the new U.N. envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, said Somali government leaders had admitted to him in private that the action taken against Shabelle had been a mistake and would not happen again.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington was gravely concerned, and the broadcaster played a vital role in political dialogue and reconciliation.

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