Somalia insurgents take over radio stations..

Halkaan ka akhri

NAIROBI – Somalia’s al Shabaab rebels have taken over radio stations in the cities under their control and often detain the few independent journalists who have not fled the country, reporters and rights groups say.

Journalists said al Shabaab — which pledges allegiance to al Qaeda — had closed a radio station in the southern city of Kismayu and seized one in Baydhaba in southwestern Somalia, the other main city under its control.

“They replaced the station in Kismayu with one that they use for their broadcasts. And they have taken over the one in Baydhaba,” said Omar Faruk Osman, general secretary of the National Union of Somali Journalists.

“This is a crackdown on freedom of expression and media law.”

Somalia has lacked an effective central government for 19 years and ranks among the world’s deadliest for journalists, with six killed in relation to their work last year, according to New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The Western-backed administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is battling al Shabaab and other rebel groups and controls little more than a few blocks of the capital. Journalists, along with foreign aid workers, also risk being kidnapped for ransom.

“We are deeply worried about the growing harassment and intimidation against Somali journalists,” Osman said.

Last week, a director and reporter for Shabelle Radio based in Mogadishu, Ahmed Omar Salihi was briefly detained by the al Shabaab administration in Bardhere, Gedo region, and freed after being told not to air any content about the government

Osman added that al Shabaab had also arrested two other journalists in Gedo region, in south western Somalia.

Earlier this week, al Shabaab arrested three journalists in southern Somalia for among other things, reporting that elders had asked the Kenyan and Somali governments to address the insecurity at their common border.

They were later released after days in custody. Al Shabaab expelled one of them, Mahmed Salad Abdille — a reporter for the Somali Broadcasting Corporation and Somaliweyn Radio in Mogadishu and Bosasso — from their strongholds.

“I was tortured and I am unable to tell even my relatives how they treated me. They used to beat me sometimes and poured soil and water on me in the middle of the night,” Abdille told Reuters upon being released after spending six days in jail.

Media rights organizations and unions condemned al Shabaab’s action and demanded that journalists be left to work unhindered.

“Violations … of the press have reached unprecedented levels, resulting in a serious crisis for Somali journalism due to impunity, insecurity and self-censorship,” Ernest Sagaga of the International Federation of Journalists told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva Wednesday.

Source: Reuters

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