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SOMALIA: Government shuts down media groups

NAIROBI, 14 November 2007 (IRIN) - Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has shut down Shabelle Media Network, Banadir Radio and Radio Simba, media officials told IRIN.

Mustaf Haji, editor at Radio Simba, said a group of armed men arrived at the station at 11am local time on 13 November and "ordered us to shut down and cease our operations immediately. We have been off the air ever since, and we don’t know if will be back any time soon," he said.

Ali Muhumad Adan, the deputy head of Banadir Radio, told IRIN he received a similar visit "from a group claiming to be from national security service who ordered us off the air. We were escorted out of our premises by armed men," he added.

The closure of the two media houses came a day after one of the biggest media house in Mogadishu, the Shabelle Media Network, was ordered to shut down.

"There was no official explanation as to why we were closed down or the length of the shutdown," Adan said.

Madobe Nuunow Mohamed, the TFG information minister, confirmed the closures and said they were carried out "on the orders of the National Security Committee".

Mohamed said the stations had been "carrying false reports and misrepresenting the activities of the security forces".

A local journalist told IRIN that the government was "at war with the independent media".

"They are getting more and more sensitive to any reports from Mogadishu and what is happening there," he said. "I think they [the government] doesn’t want the world to know about the suffering in Mogadishu and so would rather close down all private media or force them to report only pro-government news."

He said that only three independent radio stations remained on air and "it is just a matter of time before they are also shut down".

However, the minister denied the accusation, saying: "The government fully supports the operations of the independent media. Our charter [interim constitution] allows for it and we cannot contravene that."

However, Mohamed said some media organisations were "working with insurgents" and against the efforts of the security forces to bring security back to the city. "While pretending to be reporting news they are giving information to insurgents on the whereabouts of the security forces," he said.

Journalist groups and civil society activists in Mogadishu denounced the government's action. "We robustly denounce this action against freedom of the press," said one, who wished to remain anonymous.

A civil society source told IRIN: "This has become a pattern. We are disturbed by this action and we condemn it. I hope it is not the beginning of the end for independent media in Mogadishu."

He also denounced the use of the intelligence services "to intimidate and harass the media. It has become a habit to send the [security forces] to scare people."

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the government's action.

"Any time the authorities in Mogadishu hear unwelcome news of the fighting in the city they send troops crashing through the door of the radio station responsible,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “This is crude and unacceptable censorship. Radio Shabelle, Radio Banadir and Radio Simba provide a vital service for all Somalis. They must be allowed back on air."



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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