Media watchdogs denounce death of Somali reporter

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MOGADISHU, Oct 20 (Reuters) Relatives today buried the latest victim of a series of attacks on journalists in Somalia, a senior broadcaster shot dead the night before in what media watchdogs called a politically motivated killing.

Unidentified men shot acting Radio Shabelle Chairman Bashir Nur Gedi lat on Friday, bringing to at least eight the number of journalists killed in the Horn of Africa nation this year.

He was buried in the capital Mogadishu today.

The Somali press freedom group the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said the killing was politically motivated.

''It is totally intolerable and sends clear message to each media person that his or her life in risk because of his or her media activity,'' Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary-General, said in a statement.

''We have been appealing to political groups to end killing of media people, but no group listens,'' Osman said.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attack and urged the government in a statement to ''ensure that all Radio Shabelle staff can return to their respective homes safely''.

As the journalist was buried, authorities in the northern state of Puntland arrested three reporters for Radio Garowe after the station aired a story critical of the national security service, NUSOJ said.

The Puntland government made no immediate comment.

Journalists in Somalia, which has been in a state of anarchy since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, routinely face death, arbitrary imprisonment and harassment.

The danger has intensified since the Somali government, with Ethiopian military help, expelled Islamist militants from Mogadishu last New Year.

POLITICAL DUEL Journalists have faced attacks from both the government and insurgents angered by critical reporting in Somalia's media, one of the most vibrant institutions in a nation with little left after years of lawlessness.

Independent Radio Shabelle, which is involved in radio, Internet and news photography, was under siege all week and last month was fired on by government troops. That resulted in a two-week shut-down of broadcasting.

The government in September rounded up 18 of the broadcaster's journalists.

In January and June, the government ordered Shabelle and fellow broadcasters HornAfrik and IQK Koranic radio off the air.

Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi landed today in Baidoa, the south-central town where the Somali interim parliament sits, after a visit to Ethiopia for consultations with his allies in its government.

President Abdullahi Yusuf is again trying to throw Gedi out of office, having failed with a no-confidence vote attempt last year.

The two have feuded almost since they took office in late 2004 at the head of Somalia's 14th attempt to form a government in 15 years.

The parliament must decide whether Gedi's term has expired as Yusuf argues. Gedi says he has 14 more months to run, and lobbied legislators again at a lunch on Saturday.

Parliament had been due to resume debate on Saturday, but will now resume on Sunday, officials said.

REUTERS SZ AS1921

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