The head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting and defending the freedom of the press today condemned the murder of a journalist in Somalia and called for measures to improve the safety of media professionals in the Horn of Africa country.

Hassan Osman Abdi, 29, a journalist and director of the Shabelle Media Network, a private radio and television network, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Saturday at his home in the capital, Mogadishu, according to local sources cited by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

?The murder of Hassan Osman Abdi is a severe blow to a country where the media have paid a heavy price for exercising the human right to freedom of expression,? said Irina Bokova, UNESCO?s Director-General, in a press release.

?The death of journalists undermines the right of people to be kept informed. Somalia?s reconciliation and reconstruction will not take place without securing respect for these two rights.?

She urged the Somali authorities to take urgent measures to improve the safety of journalists and investigate the murder of Mr. Abdi, who was reportedly shot by five gunmen after arriving home from Radio Shabelle, where he worked on political issues.

Some 21 Somali journalists and other media professionals have been listed on UNESCO?s dedicated web page ?UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists,? since 2006.

Last year, UNESCO provided equipment and training on safety, conflict-sensitive journalism and humanitarian reporting to more than 40 media professionals in Somalia. The training was intended to enhance the quality and flow of information on humanitarian issues to audiences inside Somalia and to Somali refugees in camps in neighbouring countries.

In 2010, UNESCO, in collaboration with Radio Netherlands Training Centre, provided training to 20 Somali community radio journalists, helping them to improve their ability to work in an environment of conflict.

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