- Somalia's interim parliament has voted to move the transitional government to Mogadishu, the capital, from its temporary seat in Baidoa, barely three months after Ethiopian-backed government forces ousted the Islamist movement from the city. Despite the growing violence, the government has aimed at securing Mogadishu within 30 days.
"The government has been present in the city, but parliament had to officially approve the move," Somali Information Minister Madobe Nuunow Muhammad told the UN media 'IRIN' on Tuesday.
He said the motion to move the government to Mogadishu was passed on Monday in Baidoa after 171 members of parliament voted in favour while nine opposed and 10 abstained.
Mr Muhammad said the move would take effect immediately. "The President and his staff had left for Mogadishu this morning [Tuesday]," he added.
The move is linked to a plan announced by the government on Sunday to "secure and stabilise" Mogadishu within 30 days.
"The population has suffered enough," Salad Ali Jeele, Deputy Defence Minister, said on Monday, adding that newly trained security forces would start work in the city soon. "We will secure the city in 30 days."
Many Mogadishu residents have already left the city to escape the daily exchange of mortar and artillery fire between the government forces, supported by African Union peacekeepers, and Islamist insurgents. Rough estimates put the numbers of people displaced from Mogadishu since January at 18,000-30,000.
Meanwhile, journalists' groups have denounced the detention of a radio reporter and the beating-up of others in the country.
Government security officials detained Hassan Sade Dhaqane of 'HornAfrik' radio and television on 9 March and he has not been seen since, according to 'HornAfrik' managing partner, Ali Iman Sharmarke. "We have not seen him or heard from him since Friday," Mr Sharmarke said.
"It is becoming a trend to harass the free media. The arrest of Hassan is meant to discourage others from reporting unfavourable news," he added.
In another incident, forces loyal to Somalia's transitional government beat up three journalists from 'Shabelle Radio Network' on 12 March.
Reporters Isma'il Ali Abdi, Muhammad Ibrahim Rageh and Muhammad Ibrahim Ali had gone to the former ministry of defence headquarters, which is a base for Ethiopian troops, to confirm reports that the Ethiopians had left, "when they were beaten up and their equipment confiscated", Muhammad Amin, deputy head of 'Shabelle Media Network', said. Mr Amin said their equipment had been returned and they had reported the matter to the Minister of Information.
Minister Muhammad told 'IRIN' he was aware of both incidents. "I regret that these incidents took place," he said. "This government supports the freedom of the press. As a ministry we are investigating the incidents and following them up with the relevant agencies."
However, he urged the private media to be responsible and to contribute to the "efforts by the government to bring peace and stability to the country. They have a role to play and they should play it positively," he warned.
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