IPI – The International Press Institute (IPI) joins the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in condemning the continued harassment and censorship of Somali radio stations by the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab.
The militant group has reportedly imposed severe restrictions over local station Radio Jowhar, which is located in the middle Shabelle region. Jowhar is a former capital of the Transitional Federal Government, and home to TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, according to a report on the BBC website.
The Al-Shabaab take-over comes after the failure of dialogue between the management of the station and the militant group, according to NUSOJ. The watchdog group reported that on Wednesday, 29 June, a group of Al-Shabaab officers proceeded to Radio Jowhar, where they outlined their demands on the radio station: either broadcast content that solely favours Al-Shabaab, or face a takeover.
“We adamantly condemn these restrictions to the highest standard of media freedom on violation,” said IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “We are demanding that Al-Shabaab get rid of those restrictions as soon as possible and allow the radio station to operate freely and without any limitations.”
“Radio Jowhar is the only radio station in Jowhar and it no longer has the freedom it used to have,” Somali journalist Mohamed Ibrahim told IPI by phone today, adding that the separate group which he leads, also called the National Union of Somali Journalists, is advocating through other media stations to call on Al-Shabaab to “stop harassing our partners.”
Although some radio staff managed to escape, others were “forced to stay” during the complete take-over by Al-Shabaab militants, Radio Shabelle correspondent Mohammed Amin told IPI by phone from Mogadishu.
NUSOJ is also appealing with the government to scrap media restrictions that demoralize media personalities in Somalia, and instead work to improve press freedom and journalist safety.
„Under his watch, the former Minister of Information has instead censored the media and harassed independent journalists in an effort to intimidate and dissuade them from further critical reporting,“ said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
It is hoped that the newly appointed Minister of Information, Dr. Abdulkareem Jama, will keep his recent promises to guarantee press freedom.