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Radio station staff receive death threats, station is shut down; two journalists beaten by soldiers

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is protesting the shutting down of Radio Markabley in the Bardhere District of Gedo Region in southwest Somalia by the Regional Islamic Administration.

The head of security at the Islamic Administration in Bardhere, Sheik Barre Qoje, went to the newly established radio station on 10 December 2008 around 7:20 p.m. (local time) and ordered it to shut down. The station's journalists and other staff immediately complied with the order.

The administration argued that the radio station, which was established by local journalists, was airing songs and music which are forbidden by the Islamic Religion The radio was airing these songs as people were celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid.

The Islamic Administration also threatened to kill all of the journalists at Radio Markabley if they do not respect the administration's decision. A week before the closure, individuals from the Al-Shabaab Group in Kismayo phoned the radio station and threatened to take action against the station and its staff.

"Closing a Radio Station for airing songs and music has no validation in the Islamic religion. This is a serious repression of freedom of expression and is the opposite of what the Islamic religion calls for," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ's secretary general.

"Markabley was founded by journalists to serve their people and the Islamic Administration in Gedo must allow the radio to recommence its operations without repressions and threats," Omar Faruk added. "When they shut down the only radio station in the region, they automatically silence the people in the region and the administration will face serious consequences".

In a separate attack on 9 December 2008, two journalists who work for the Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) were badly beaten by soldiers from the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) in Bossasso, according to Mowlid Haji Abdi, the director of SBC.

Journalists Ahmed Nur Ibrahim and Said Abdullahi Jama, who were assigned to cover how local people were celebrating the Eid festival in Bossasso neighbourhoods, were attacked by PIS soldiers after they were identified as SBC journalists. The journalists were beaten with guns, their equipment was taken away and they were taken to the PIS headquarters where they were detained for three hours.

"NUSOJ denounces this cruel attack against the two journalists. The lack of accountability that allows the PIS to do anything to anybody is intolerable. There must be accountability for severe human rights violations committed by PIS soldiers who were granted unlimited freedom and power in the name of counter-terrorism," the NUSOJ secretary general said.

NUSOJ is a national union representing Somali journalists to promote and protect freedom of the press and the interests and rights of journalists.

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