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Foreign news programmes and music banned by insurgents

Militants have intensified censorship in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has banned BBC and Voice of America programmes that are re-broadcast through local FM stations in regions under its control, report the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The militia sees the programming as "Christian propaganda" that violates Islam. And another insurgent group has imposed an edict on radio stations in the capital, Mogadishu, to not air music or songs.

A statement from the Al-Shabaab militia accuses the BBC of broadcasting programmes "against Muslims and Islam." Al-Shabaab proceeded to raid BBC offices in Baidoa, Mogadishu and Jowhar, say local journalists. Radio stations were ordered to end programming on 9 April or their equipment would be seized. Al-Shabaab confiscated the corporation's FM transmitters and satellite dishes in five regions.

Intimidation and death threats against journalists have ensured self-censorship, and the ban will seriously undermine the public's access to information, reports NUSOJ. Al-Shabaab has terrorised the media by murdering and kidnapping journalists. "Everyone who says a word of truth must be killed; this is the threat of Al Shabaab," said a local journalist.

Over the past two months, many radio journalists have been detained or kidnapped by Al-Shabaab for a few days and then freed, including Abdikarim Mohamed Bulhan of Radio Shabelle, radio journalist Abdul Karim Mohamed Hersi, three journalists from Markabley Radio, and Ali Yusuf Adan, a correspondent for Radio Somaliweyn, report NUSOJ and the International Press Institute (IPI).

Also, a stringer for Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and Somaliweyn Radio, Mohamed Salad Abdulle, was detained on 16 March and then released on 22 March with orders to leave the area. Abdulle had filed news reports about negotiations between Al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam insurgents.

On 3 April, Hisbul Islam held a press conference in Mogadishu banning the airing of music and songs and ordering radio stations not to call foreign fighters "foreigners," but to instead refer to them as "Muhaajiriin," says NUSOJ. This is the first time media outlets in Mogadishu are facing this level of censorship. Radio stations were told they would face severe reprisals for not complying before the deadline of 13 April. Hizbul Islam officials telephoned some stations to remind them of the deadline and warn them of deadly consequences if they ignored the edict.

"The New York Times" reports that two radio stations did not obey the edict. "The government-owned Radio Mogadishu and another station, Radio Bar-Kulan, which is mostly produced in Kenya, continued playing music." But many of the 14 other stations in the capital used the sound of gun shots, roosters, the sound of water flowing, the roar of an engine and the sound of running horses to replace the music used to introduce programs, says "The New York Times".

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