As we reported last week, radio stations in Somalia have been pressured to cease playing music by militant Islamist groups. Under threat of violence, these stations opted to replace music with all-talk formats, punctuated by sounds of animals, nature, and machinery.
On Tuesday the government of Somalia actually ordered four Mogadishu radio stations to play music again and threatened to shut them down if they didn’t. Two stations began playing music after this order and two others shut down out of fear about how militants might react. In a bizarre twist, the government took back its order for stations to play music shortly after issuing it. According to an Associated Press report, the conflicting edicts from the government and insurgents are taking a toll on stations. The AP article states:
“A director of the Somaliweyn station, Abukar Mohamed Hassan Kadaf, said his station went off-air but resumed broadcasts 20 minutes later when the government appeared to change its mind.
Kadaf said he was not sure about the future of Mogadishu-based radio stations, ‘because each side is telling you to do his bidding.’
Radio workers said they felt trapped between violent insurgents who are known to stone people to death and an ineffectual government that controls only a few blocks of the capital city and cannot protect them.
‘We are confused. We don’t know what will come next,’ Kadaf said.”
It’s an unfortunate situation and although these recent government interventions may have been an attempt to protect media freedom, that clearly can’t happen unless the station owners and staff feel safe from violence.
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