REGIONS:

GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN THREE STATIONS IN TWO DAYS

Somalia's government has forced three prominent radio stations off the air in the space of two days over their coverage of the bloody conflict in Mogadishu, report the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and local human rights groups.

Armed Somali government troops led by national security agents stormed the studios of Radio Banadir and Radio Simba, ordered the stations to stop broadcasting until further notice and escorted staff off the premises. Radio Simba's studios were later occupied by Ethiopian troops.

The day before, Radio Shabelle, a leading independent station broadcasting from Mogadishu's Bakara market, was shut down. The market is believed to be an insurgent stronghold.

"Any time the authorities in Mogadishu hear unwelcome news of the fighting in the city they send troops crashing through the door of the radio station responsible," says CPJ. "This is crude and unacceptable censorship. Radio Shabelle, Radio Banadir and Radio Simba provide a vital service for all Somalis."

According to CPJ, Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed "Dheere" Omar Habeeb accused the private stations of coverage undermining the government and carrying false reports. The closures have coincided with a sweep by Somali government forces, backed by the Ethiopian military and the U.S., through Mogadishu in search of weapons and Islamic insurgents.

The mayor's office has ordered media groups and journalists to register with authorities within 30 days or be barred from Mogadishu, says NUSOJ.

Four private radio stations, including prominent HornAfrik Radio, were still on air in the capital, but were censoring their reports, says CPJ. Local journalists fear that it is only a matter of time before they are shut down.

The government has regularly cracked down on journalists this year, shutting down broadcasters and warning them to censor their coverage. Eight media people were killed so far this year, says NUSOJ.

Meanwhile, in Somaliland, the Ministry of Information has drafted a new law which gives itself excessive control over the media, NUSOJ has discovered. Under the draft law, the ministry would have the power to suspend and take over media organisations, arrest journalists and intervene in the managerial, financial and editorial processes of media outlets. Journalists would need to get permission from the Ministry to carry out any professional assignments.

The draft law has yet to be presented to the legislature. NUSOJ has backed the Somaliland Journalist Association (SOLJA) in calling on the government to open dialogue with the media on the draft legislation and bring it in line with international standards.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/27ldqw
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24340
- NUSOJ on draft law: http://tinyurl.com/yr938l
- Associated Somali Journalists: http://www.asoj.org/
(20 November 2007)

Latest Tweet:

PTI supporters assault, harass Geo News staff, other reporters http://t.co/KevFfTypei | @Pakistan_Press #Pakistan