Reporters Without Borders today called on Union of Islamic Courts militias in Kismayo to let the privately-owned HornAfrik radio station work unmolested after they briefly arrested three of its journalists this morning and threatened them with sanctions if they continued to refer to the UIC’s activities.
“Under the logic of war currently prevailing in Somalia, journalists are easy prey for those who want to control news and information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Despite promises to the contrary, the Islamic courts have on several occasions shown their readiness to monitor and punish news media that bother them. But the facts exist and it is the job of the press to report them. You cannot make them disappear by punishing, arrested or threatening journalists.”
The UIC militias arrested the three HornAfrik journalists - Sahro Abdi Ahmed, Layla Sheik Ismail and Adam Mohammed Salad - at around 11 a.m. today, one of their colleagues told Reporters Without Borders. Ismail is also the correspondent of the Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), a privately-owned radio and TV station based in Puntland, while Salad is also the correspondent of the Puntland-based Radio Daljir.
The UIC militias, who arrived in Kismayo on 24 September, were also looking for reporter Hassan Mohammed Nur and Nasteh Dahir Farah, the manager of HornAfrik’s branch in Kismayo. Both went into hiding at once. Ahmed, Ismail and Salad were released a few hours later after being ordered not to refer to the Islamic courts any more.
The Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Somalia, the National Union of Somali journalists (NUSOJ), said militiamen went to the Kismayo branch of HornAfrik at about 6 p.m. yesterday and demanded the keys to the premises. When the manager refused to hand them over, they turned off its generator and took up position outside.
The UIC militiamen said they had come to the station because it had broadcast statements by inhabitants of Kismayo criticising the militias and had referred to the disturbances in the city, the third largest in Somalia, since their arrival. Many of Kismayo’s inhabitants have criticised the militias’ high-profile presence, the restrictions they have imposed, their replacement of the Somali flag and the fact that fired on protesters, killing a 13-year-old child.