Reporters Without Borders today condemned a show of military force used to close down the country’s three leading radio stations, Shabelle, Simba and Horn Afrik, and called on the civil government to act to ensure that the media can resume broadcasting as usual.
The troops of the Transitional Federal Government raided the studios of the three radio stations as part of a security sweep through the capital, Mogadishu, which has been the scene of violent clashes between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government troops, the worldwide press freedom organisation’s Somali partner, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said.
Director of Radio Shabelle, Muktar Mohamed Hirabe was arrested and reportedly later released but has not managed to get in touch with his colleagues, while a journalist on Radio Simba, Abdiaziz Hussein Hassan, was beaten up by soldiers during the raid. Equipment was seized and the radios shut down.
“The transitional government forces have attempted to strike a blow against media which give airtime to the opposition,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This move against the targeted media, who are already operating in difficult conditions, is a serious threat to their very existence.”
“The civil government must make a stand and demonstrate that its commitment to press freedom is more than just words, by demanding that the three radio stations are back on air as quickly as possible. This is a crucial time for the transitional government, elected to restore law and order, not to allow the abuses seen under the military government to continue. We expect a strong positive signal from them,” the organisation said.
Three radio stations, including Radio Shabelle and Radio Simba, were closed by the authorities for 24 hours in November 2007.
Somalia has been without a stable government since the overthrow of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991 and is Africa’s deadliest country for journalists to work in.