- Three Somali journalists found themselves at daggers end of their government after they had filmed the presence of Ethiopian soldiers on Somali territory. The alleged presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia, there to aid the transitional government to fight the Jihadist movement, could endanger popular support for authorities.
The filming led to the arrest, interrogation and detention of the journalists on 24 October. Fahad Mohammed Abukar of Baidoa-based 'Warsan Radio', Mohammed Adawe Adam of Mogadishu-based 'Radio Shabelle' and Muktar Mohammed Atosh of Mogadishu-based 'HornAfrik' were arrested in Daynunay, a village 15 kilometres outside Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government's headquarters.
The journalists, who all work for the private media, were arrested on their way from Burhankaba where government troops have been fighting militias loyal to the Islamist movement that controls Mogadishu. Security forces also arrested another three people travelling with the journalists.
Officials of the National Union of Somali Journalists said the journalists were interrogated at Baidoa criminal investigation police before they were held in the city's prison.
Local sources told the Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters sans Frontiéres (RSF), that the men were caught in possession of a digital video camera containing footage of the body of Somali and Ethiopian soldiers killed in Burhakaba.
For several months, the transitional government, which is recognised by the international community, has been at war with the Islamic Courts Union over the control of southern Somalia. The Islamist movement, which control Mogadishu and almost two thirds of the provinces, accused Ethiopian troops of fighting alongside the militias of the transitional government.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who earlier this week recognised his country "is technically at war" with the Somali Islamists, has acknowledged sending "about a hundred trainers at the most" to Somalia. He maintains that no troops have been sent, however.
Also the Baidoa-based government denies the many witness accounts of Ethiopian troops in the small territory under its control. The Islamists, on the other hand, have made the most of the possible propaganda gains attributed to Baidoa's alliance with Ethiopia - considered the arch-rival of Somalia. The two countries have fought several wars in the past.
The arrest of the Somali journalists today triggered international protests. RSF called for the immediate release of the journalists, for they "were undesired witnesses of the bloody poker game being played by the belligerents in Somalia. In view of the very worrying situation in which our three colleagues now find themselves, we urge the government to respect the press freedom guarantees contained in the federal transition charter it signed."
Believing the public's right to know the realities of the fighting that is taking place in Somalia, RSF in a statement therefore urged President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed to release the journalists who were doing their job in an extremely dangerous situation where news manipulation is one of the weapons being used.
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