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Somalia11 June 2007

Minister lifts ban on three radio stations after four days

Reporters Without Borders voiced satisfaction today at the transitional federal government’s decision to allow three privately-owned radio stations - HornAfrik, Shabelle and Quran Kariim (Holy Koran) - to resume broadcasting yesterday, four days after it ordered them to suspend operations.

“This decision was to be expected, as the high-handed fashion in which the stations were closed was both abusive and counter-productive,” the press freedom organisation said. “We hope the transitional government will in future use methods other than blind repression to make its grievances known.”

Information minister Madobe Nounow Mohamuda yesterday summoned the heads of the three radio stations to inform that they were authorised to resume broadcasts. The move was reportedly the result of pressure from the US government, whose ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, interceded with the president to get the suspension lifted.

According to local journalists, Ranneberger argued that it could jeopardise the outcome of a national reconciliation conference due to be held in mid-June in Mogadishu.

07.06.2007 - Government urged to explain closure of three radio stations

Reporters Without Borders called on the transitional federal government to publicly explain the closure of three privately-owned radio stations yesterday in Mogadishu for “supporting terrorism” and urged the authorities to take great care with the accusation made against one of the stations, HornAfrik, that it was storing firearms.

“The government’s hostility towards these radio stations is well known,” the press freedom organisation said. “Despite warnings, it has so far never managed to initiate a constructive dialogue with them. Closing radio stations, raiding their premises and accusing them of abetting terrorism are very grave actions.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “If serious charges are brought against these stations, the authorities must act transparently and fairly, and take account of the safety of the journalists, who could be endangered by these accusations and exposed to the prevailing political violence. If not, the stations must be allowed to resume broadcasting as soon as possible.”

Information minister Madobe Nounow Mohamuda wrote to the three stations - HornAfrik, Shabelle and Quran Kariim (Holy Koran) - ordering them to stop broadcasting and accusing them of “fomenting hostility, supporting terrorism, violating press freedom, sowing confusion in the population and mobilising anti-government forces.”

He also wrote that the radio station’s owners “are responsible for the above-mentioned actions and must be held accountable,” implying that they could be prosecuted. The three stations stopped broadcasting after receiving his letter yesterday.

HornAfrik’s management said the charges were baseless and reflected “the government’s usual tendency to attack press freedom.”

Abdifatah Ibrahim Shawey, the deputy governor of the Banadir region and head of political and security matters, was meanwhile quoted by the website as claiming that, during a security operation in Mogadishu, police discovered an “important arsenal of different kinds of weapons” loaded on a Mitsubishi N3 four-wheel-drive vehicle hidden in the radio station’s building.

The government has not provided any additional information about the closure of the other two stations, but a raid was carried out this morning on the premises of Shabelle.

The three stations have often been the target of hostility from the transitional government, which accuses them of biased coverage and of supporting Somalia’s Islamists. The stations were previously closed for 24 hours in January after broadcasting disputed information about the security situation in Mogadishu.

Seven shells hit the premises of HornAfrik, injuring two employees, during fighting in Mogadishu on 21 April.

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