Privately-owned Radio Jowhar resumed broadcasting at midday yesterday after spending 27 hours without electricity as a result of a decision by the Islamic courts. But now all kinds of music from nationalist tunes to love songs are banned, except jingles lasting no more than a minute, Reporters Without Borders has learned from Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary-general of its partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
11.09.06 - Radio station closed down and reporter arrested at behest of Islamic courts
Reporters Without Borders today condemned punitive measures taken by Somalia’s Islamic courts against the press in the past few days, including the closure of the privately-owned Radio Jowhar and the arbitrary detention for 48 hours of Osman Adan Areys, a journalist based in the central city of Beledweyn.
“It is painful to see that, for the Somali population, anarchy is gradually being replaced by oppression,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is not too late for the Islamic tribunals to realise that maintaining order is not a matter of imposing prohibitions and a reign of fear.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “Radio Jowhar’s attempts to maintain an independent editorial line in the terrible climate prevailing in Somalia deserves to be rewarded with respect, not with arbitrary closure. Similarly, journalists should not have to live in fear of being arrested by militiamen just because the facts they have reported have upset someone in authority.”
The regional government of Middle Shabelle, which is backed by the Islamic courts in Mogadishu, ordered the privately-owned Jowhar-based Radio Jowhar to stop broadcasting music and songs on 9 September. Agence France-Presse quoted a commander in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) as saying the aim was to stop the broadcasting of “music that promotes devilish behaviour.” An Islamic court official quoted by the Associated Press said: “It is useless to air music and love songs for the people.”
After receiving the order, Radio Jowhar’s management tried to argue that it was essential for the station to continue broadcasting music. An SICS armed unit then went to the station and stopped all further broadcasting. Jowhar’s power company has also been ordered not to supply the station with any more electricity, according to Reporters Without Borders’ partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
Founded by intellectuals from different clans, Radio Jowhar is Jowhar’s only privately-owned radio station. It has tried to remain editorially independent at a time when many other stations are taking sides with the different political forces fighting for power.
Meanwhile, a militia that supports the Islamic courts arrested Areys, a local correspondent for privately-owned Radio Simba and other Mogadishu-based stations, on 8 September in Beledweyn, the capital of the central region of Hiiraan, while he was covering a demonstration after Friday evening prayers in protest against any deployment of peacekeepers in Somalia.
Beledweyn-based journalists quoted by NUSOJ said Areys was arrested because of a radio report in which members of the city’s population complained about the restrictions being imposed by the Islamic courts. He was released yesterday without any charges being pressed.