Reporters Without Borders firmly condemned yesterday’s forcible closure of privately-owned Radio Warsan in the western city of Baidoa. Police working for the federal transition government, which has its headquarters in Baidoa, have been occupying the radio station since yesterday afternoon.
“You cannot claim to represent the democratic camp and at the same time behave like one of the continent’s most despotic regimes,” the press freedom organisation said. “Radio Warsan, which portrays itself as a radio station for the ordinary people, has been targeted by the federal transition government too often. How can the government expect to be supported by the people if it muzzles them like this? It is time President Abdullahi Yusuf understood that repression and sabre-rattling are counterproductive.”
The deputy director of police burst into Radio Warsan’s studios at about 5 p.m. yesterday and ordered its closure. When station manager Abdifatah Mohammed Ibrahim asked to see a written order, the police officer returned with a dozen armed policemen and closed the studios by force.
“Five policemen are inside the radio station right now and are closely watching all the staff’s movements,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), which is Reporters Without Borders’ local partner organisation.
An independent commercial station formerly called Democratic Media Concern (DMC), Radio Warsan received threats after broadcasting programmes and news reports that displeased the government, including reports that the government wanted to evict residents living next to the presidential palace for security reasons, the NUSOJ said. The station had planned a talk show to raise donations for those displaced.
Radio Warsan was previously closed down by force on 8 September, when seven of its journalists were briefly detained. It was allowed to resume broadcasting after eight days. Two other journalists were arrested on 24 October and held for several days.