September 11, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Security agency arrests journalists, closes radio stations after banning coverage of Al-Shabaab

Taking its fight against the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab to the airwaves, Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) has been arresting journalists and closing news media since 2 September, when it issued a ban on national media coverage of all Al-Shabaab activities. In one of its latest operations, the NISA raided Radio Kulmiye and stopped its broadcasts on 7 September. It also arrested Radio Kulmiye director Osman Abdullahi Guure and the head of the state radio broadcaster, Abdirahim Isse Addow, for broadcasting a statement by Al-Shabaab’s leader confirming the death of its leader and naming his replacement. The two journalists were released three hours later and Radio Kulmiye was allowed to resume broadcasting. Radio SIMBA suffered the same fate the previous day for the same reason, broadcasting the Al-Shabaab spokesman’s statement. The NISA arrived at the station on the evening of 6 September, ordered it to stop broadcasting, seized some of its equipment and arrested three of its journalists – Abirahman Mohamed Olad, Sharmarke Mohamed Hussein and Mohamed Ahmed Sheik. After being held overnight, they were released and the station was allowed to resume broadcasting. The NISA arrested Radio Shabelle journalist Mohamed Bashir Hashi on the morning of 6 September for still unknown reasons apparently linked to the closure of Radio Shabelle and Sky FM on 15 August. Three journalists of these two medias are detained since then, and have allegedly been tortured. Mohamed Bashir Hashi is still being held. Hassan Ali Gesey, the director of Radio Dalsan and head of the Somali Independent Media Houses Association (SIMHA), and Radio Dalsan journalist Abukar Muhyadin were detained for several hours on 3 September, a day after Gesey criticized the NISA ban on covering Al-Shabaab. “The media should not have to suffer because of the government’s fight against Al-Shabaab,” Reporters Without Borders assistant research director Virginie Dangles said. “Journalists relayed a report about Al-Shabaab that was purely informative in nature. It is outrageous that they were arrested just for doing their job. In their war against Al-Shabaab, the authorities must respect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information.” Many civil society organizations have meanwhile been criticizing a new media bill, seeing it as way of gagging the media under cover of legality. Approved by the Somali Council of Ministers on 1 September, it is now awaiting a vote in parliament. Somalia is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. (photo: Hassan Ali Gesey)