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Al-Shabaab imposes severe restrictions on privately-owned radio station

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 25 July 2011 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the continued attacks on the media by the Al-Shabaab militant group, which has imposed severe restrictions on a private radio station in the Middle Shabelle region, after threatening to illegally take it over.

Radio Jowhar, the only FM station in Jowhar, the headquarters of the Middle Shabelle region, was visited on 29 June 2011 by three Al-Shabaab officers who gave the station two options, to either operate under the rule of Al-Shabaab by broadcasting only reports that favour the militant group or the FM station would be completely taken over.

More than three weeks of dialogue between the radio station's management and Al-Shabaab failed, and Radio Jowhar was forced last week to only report on news and information favouring Al-Shabaab. The station was also coerced into rebroadcasting every day a one hour programme from the Al-Shabaab-owned Radio Andalus in Kismayu.

To ensure the implementation of these severe restrictions, Al-Shabaab posted Hamud Sheikh Abdirisaq, a member of the Al-Shabaab propaganda team, to monitor the Radio Jowhar programmes on a daily basis.

"We condemn these restrictions, which constitute the highest level of media freedom infringement," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We demand that Al-Shabaab immediately lift these restrictions and allow the radio station to operate freely and without limitations."

Due to the restrictions, six journalists working for the station left their positions and fled from Jowhar after expressing their reluctance to work under Al-Shabaab rules.

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