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NUSOJ condemns closure of another radio station in Gedo region

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the closure on 24 November 2009 by the Al-Shabaab administration of the privately-owned station Maandeeq Radio, in Belet-Hawo district, Gedo region.

NUSOJ is greatly alarmed by the wave of closures of privately-owned media houses. This is the second radio station closed by the extremist group in the past two months in Gedo region. In September, the Al-Shabaab ordered the closure of Radio Markabley.

Two technical trucks loaded with heavily armed men loyal to the Al-Shabaab administration descended on the station's premises and ordered the journalists to shut down operations at around 12:15 p.m. (local time), on 24 November. They also seized some equipment belonging to Maandeeq Radio.

The armed men later told the journalists at the station that they had been "ordered to shut down the radio and take away the equipment," a Maandeeq journalist in Belet-Hawo who could not be named due to security fears told NUSOJ.

"They took one of the computers in the radio station," the journalist said, adding that the computer housed the server attached to the transmitter.

"We don't know why our station was closed," he added. "There are Al-Shabaab administrations all over the region. We have called several senior officials in the region. But the officials only give similar answers - that they have been ordered to close the station."

On the morning of 24 November, Maandeeq Radio broadcast an interview with a rival Islamist group, Ahlu-Sunna Waljama. This, the journalists believe, contributed to the closure of the radio station.

"These continued aggressive attacks against the media and the closing down of media stations is a sign of a determined effort to drive the independent media stations and journalists out of their territories so that the enemies of press freedom can install their own media stations," NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said.

"It is common knowledge that media houses and journalists serve the public by giving them accurate news stories and without them, the public will not be informed. The public has the right to receive accurate information and journalists are duty bound to provide this information," Osman added.

On 21 October, the Al-Shabaab administration in southern Somalia shut down two radio stations, Radio Warsan and Radio Jubba in Baidoa - the only independent media in the region - for an unspecified amount of time.

Radio Warsan was later taken over by the Al-Shabaab administration in the Bay region and is currently back on the air serving the interest of the administration, according to Hilal Sheik Shuayb, the station's director.

Several journalists have fled the Islamist-held regions for other parts of the country and even neighboring regions. Some of the journalists are still in hiding within the country fearing for their lives.
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