Gunmen seize freelance reporters

Concerns were expressed last night for the safety of two Western freelance journalists who were kidnapped outside Mogadishu on Sunday after being ambushed by gunmen.

Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian freelance journalist for France 24, and Nigel Brenan, an Australian freelance photojournalist, were seized as they tried to return to the Somali capital.

They were kidnapped with a Somali photojournalist, Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, who was working as their translator and guiding them to locations considered off-limits to reporters.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for abducting him, his driver or the two journalists, making it unclear whether their kidnapping was motivated by money or politics.

However, the National Union of Somali journalists said it had received information that indicates the abduction may have been premeditated and that the media pack was being held by an unidentified “militia.”

The union also pointed to a region where the four individuals may be being detained, but it agreed that the reasons behind their capture remain unclear and unannounced.

“We are worried about their safety as we have had no contact with anybody saying they are holding three journalists and their driver,” said Omar Osman, the union’s general secretary.

Osman called for the immediate release of the journalists, who were “simply doing their job” of interviewing, reporting and taking photos of internally displaced people in the Afgoye district.

A similar call followed from Reporters Without Borders, which said it hoped a broad diplomatic effort combined with help from Mogadishu clan chiefs would help secure the group’s release.

The media freedom lobbyist said, “Prudence is required in Somalia, where the situation is complex and journalists and humanitarian aid workers are often abducted by militias acting with very diverse motives.”

The 'Free Amanda Lindhout' blog can be found here.


26th August 2008

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