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Somali journalists protest radio station crackdown

Shabelle newsUpdate (10/28/2013) Reporters Without Borders condemns Somali government attack on radio stations.

Somali reporters are up in arms over a police raid of the Shabelle Media Network, which describes itself as the “leading independent media network in Somalia,” located in Mogadishu. Here is Shabelle’s account of the Saturday incident:

“Security personnel cordoned off the building hosting Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, both part of Shabelle Media Network. The police restricted the entry and exit of the workers, and then broke the gate of the building with terrorist response police vehicle and forcefully entered the building. Security forces started beating journalists with butts of their guns. Radio Shabelle was on air during the attack and the public could hear the beatings and noise inside the studio until the police violently disabled computer servers and radio transmission equipment before shutting down the generators, effectively halting broadcasting indefinitely.”

Mogadishu police insist that the raid was not intended to silence the stations, but to carry out an eviction order. “The radio houses a government-owned building and there had been a previous notice given to the management of radio Shabelle,” a police chief told Somali based RBC Radio. “The police went to the radio Shabelle premise fulfilling the orders of the senior officials of the interior ministry.  We have asked the staff of the radio to open the gate but they rejected so that the police broke down the gate and entered on that way.”

Not surprisingly, the Shabelle Network offers a different interpretation of the assault: “The real motive behind the eviction and the subsequent raid is the independent and critical reporting by the two radio stations about security situation in Mogadishu, ongoing talks about interim Jubba administration, the new agreement by the government with the Turkish company managing Mogadishu Airport, and alleged corruption within the government offices.”

The interim Jubba administration is charged with transitioning Somalia to a unified and stable government. A big piece of this job will be getting the country’s various militias to disband or reintegrate themselves into the official armed forces.

Somalia is a dangerous place to be a journalist. Reporters Without Borders, which anticipated the police raid on the Mogadishu stations, counts eighteen killed there in 2012. Many of them have been murdered by the Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab, which in 2010 banned radio stations from broadcasting music from areas that it controls or threatens. It is unclear what the music status at some of those stations is now, with the government and Al-Shabaab issuing counter edicts to them.

In September Al-Shabaab orchestrated a vicious terrorist attack on a shopping mall in neighboring Kenya that claimed the lives of over sixty civilians, among them popular radio host Ruhila Adatia-Sood of East FM, Nairobi.

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