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Somalia: Security forces raid, shut down radio stations, arrest eight journalists

© Kristy-Anne Glubish/Design Pics/Corbis

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has criticised the security forces of the Federal Government of Somalia for abusing their power and the law by raiding and closing independent radio stations and arresting journalists in the wildest media attack.

At around 9:30am on Friday, 15 August 2014, heavily armed security forces raided and shut down both Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, which are owned by Shabelle Media Network, and arrested at least eight journalists, including Shabelle chairman Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud.

The raid and closure of media houses in addition to the arrest of journalists happened in what journalists have perceived as retaliation of news reports and interviews broadcast by both Radio Shabelle and SkyFM on 14 August, in which they talked about an interview President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud gave US-based PBS television.

Journalists and politicians interviewed by Shabelle strongly criticized the president's response to a question regarding attacks on independent media – including Shabelle Radio – in which the President Mohamud cited Al-Shabaab's “infiltration” in some media houses. Some government officials accused Radio Shabelle of badly depicting President Mohamud's visit to Washington, to attend the US-Africa leaders summit.

“We deplore the raid and closure of Radio Shabelle and SkyFM and the arrest of their journalists,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “We stand for and defend media freedom and freedom of expression and clearly consider this a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and freedom of speech.”

NUSOJ has warned that such violent actions could have a terrifying effect on hard-hitting journalism and the ability for Somali journalists and their media houses to operate independently in the country.

“We call for the immediate release of detained journalists, the two radio stations to be allowed to resume their operations freely, and the on-going intimidations to end,” said Osman.

Shabelle Media Network has fallen afoul of the federal government several times, over some of their reporting. In October last year, it was forcefully removed from the premise it was operating out of in Mogadishu. In November 2013, two Shabelle journalists were arrested over an alleged rape story.

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