The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today demanded that the Somali government allow private radio station Radio Shabelle to return to the airwaves and start broadcasting immediately.
“We are calling on the government to end its attacks on Radio Shabelle and allow it to resume its broadcasts,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “The government must stop its harassment and intimidation of media and allow all media organisations to operate freely.”
Radio Shabelle has been off the air since Tuesday, the second day its offices in Mogadishu were besieged by government troops. Staff were evacuated from the building on Tuesday afternoon following talks between the radio’s management and government officials.
Government officials have denied that they have shut the station down.
“The Somali government must take responsibility for its raid on Radio Shabelle and disavow these types of attacks,” Baglo said. “The government must ensure the safety of the journalists who work for the station and also protect the company’s offices and equipment.”
In a report published on its website the management of Shabelle Media Network, the group that owns the station, said that all “the equipments including our main studio are destroyed after two hours and half [of being under fire from] government forces.”
The station said the troops are under the direct command of the head of Somalia’s National Security Agency General Darwiish. The troops have claimed they fired on the station after someone in Radio Shabelle’s office building threw a grenade at soldiers who were passing by.
The station’s offices are located close to Bakara Market in Mogadishu, which has been a site of fighting for several weeks and is blocked off by government forces.
Negotiations are ongoing for the reopening of the radio station. Civil society and media organisations tried to meet with the Information Minister today but were unable to. His office has said the Minister will meet with them soon but has not set up a meeting.
Last Saturday morning, the police force accused the radio staff of throwing a grenade at a patrol passing close to the compound. Some 17 journalists and media workers in the building were arrested and detained briefly. Since then government forces have been at the main gate, harassing journalists entering the station.
In August in a similar assault the private radio and media group Global Broadcasting Corporation based in Mogadishu was forced to close after government forces were stationed at the group’s gate.
The IFJ has called on the United Nations and other international bodies and governments to intervene in Somalia where conflict has created one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world. Since the beginning of the year, seven Somali journalists and media staff have been killed.
For more information contact the IFJ at + 221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide