Mogadishu mayor undermining free press-rights body

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NAIROBI, Nov 27 (Reuters) A Somali human rights body accused Mogadishu's mayor today of gagging the press after he issued regulations that bar journalists from publishing interviews with opponents or reporting on military operations.

The Somali government has cracked down on the media accusing it of undermining national security and has arrested journalists and media house managers.

Seven reporters have been killed since January in the Horn of Africa country trying to curb an insurgency.

The Somali Human Rights Defenders Network said Mogadishu's mayor Mohamed Dheere issued the new rules, that also prohibit media houses from disseminating refugee statistics unless they received ''real statistics'', on Monday.

''In his regulations, the governor stated 'the media cannot report the military operations of the (government) and Ethiopian troops unless they receive written documents that give them approval to disseminate that information,'' a statement by the rights body said.

''Interviewing government opponents inside (the country) and abroad is forbidden and any journalists dispensing or any radio station transmitting their views will be considered as criminal.'' Local reporters believe both insurgents and state security forces have been targeting them when they consider media may be favouring one side or the other.

REUTERS SZ ND1410

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