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Somalia16 January 2007

Three local radio stations and Al Jazeera told they can go back to work

After negotiating with the managers of three privately-owned radio stations that were ordered to suspend broadcasting yesterday, Somalia’s transitional federal government today told them they could resume broadcasting, Reporters Without Borders has learned from Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary-general of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

The Mogadishu bureau of the Qatari TV news station Al Jazeera, which was also ordered to suspend operations yesterday, was likewise told it could go back to work.

“This common-sense decision was the only fair option for the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “As it had signed a charter and given undertakings to the international community, it finally realised that repression was not the right road. Now that dialogue and negotiation have demonstrated their effectiveness, we hope that such coercive measures will no longer be used and that the government has understood that repression is counter-productive and only serves the enemies of peace.”

The transitional government yesterday sent letters to the managers of Radio Shabelle, HornAfrik and Radio Quran Kariim (Holy Koran) ordering them to suspend broadcasting. Signed by Mogadishu security chief Col. Ahmed Hassan Ali, the letters summoned them to his offices for “instructions concerning their work.”

Although the government gave no reason for the measures, these three Mogadishu-based radio stations have often been accused of bias in favour of the Union of Islamic Courts, the alliance that controlled Mogadishu until it was ousted by government forces at the end of last month.

After a meeting today lasting several hours, government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari announced that the three radio stations were “authorised to go back to work,” Reporters Without Borders was told by the NUSOJ. In return, the radio stations undertook to “protect national security and interests and to cooperate with the government,” NUSOJ added.

Yesterday’s measures came nine days after the closure of Radio Warsan, the last privately-owned radio station operating in the city of Baidoa, where Radio Quran Kariim’s correspondent, Hassan Mohammed Abikar, has been held in an undisclosed location by a government militia since 1 January.

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