Authorities in Somalia must immediately release the staff members and hand over the equipment of prominent independent radios, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) said today.
According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) a FAJ affiliate, around 09:30 am on Friday 15 August, heavily armed security forces raided and shut down both Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, which are owned by Shabelle Media Network, and arrested at least eight journalists, including Shabelle chairman Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud.
”This latest blow against two radio stations shows how authorities are reluctant to promote independant media,” said Mohamed Garba, FAJ President. ”Our colleagues must be immediately released and the equipment handed over”.
NUSOJ reported in a statement that the closure of media houses and the arrest of journalists took place in what journalists have perceived as retaliation of news reports and interviews broadcasted by both Radio Shabelle and SkyFM Thursday night in which they talked about an interview the Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud gave to US-based PBS television.
Journalists and politicians interviewed by Shabelle strongly criticized President’s response to 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 in Washington to attend US-Africa leaders summit.
”It is very regrettable for a President to state that the overwhelming majority of independent media supports terrorist group,” said Gabriel Baglo, Africa director of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). ”Independent media can’t be the voice of the Government, political parties nor any other terrorists group. They are playing a public service role in order to inform people with responsibility”.
Radio Shabelle has been shut by the government at least 3 times in recent years. It has also been threatened by Somalia’s hardline Shebab fighters over its reporting, and several of its journalists and two of its directors have been killed.
This event has raised a wave of condemnations and brought lot of solidarity from the all journalists fraternity in the world. 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 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”.
The EasternAfricaJournalists Association (EAJA) stands in solidarity with journalists in Somalia in demanding a stop to any acts that violated press freedom and interfered with freedom of expression.
“We strongly condemn the raid and shutting down of the two radio stations and the arrests of the journalists. This incident is a clear violation of media freedom and reflects a desire by the government to intimidate the media and journalists, which is unacceptable,” said EAJA Secretary General Alexandre Niyungeko.