Reporters Without Borders condemns the latest raid by Somalia’s National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA) on Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, two Mogadishu-based radio stations owned by Shabelle Media Network. Both stations have again been closed and two of their journalists are still being held.
The NISA’s third raid on the stations in the space of 18 months was carried out on 3 April by five heavily-armed teams that stormed Shabelle Media Network’s headquarters, seized all of their broadcasting equipment and arrested a total of 25 people, including 23 journalists and media workers.
Most were released after being questioned but Radio Shabelle director Mohamed Muse and editor-in-chief Ahmed Abdi Hassan are still being held and the NISA is actively looking for Shabelle Media Network president Abdimalik Yusuf.
Radio Shabelle broadcast a recording by Sheikh Ali Dheere, the spokesman of the Islamist rebel group Al-Shabaab, claiming responsible for the 2 April massacre of students in Garissa University, in neighbouring Kenya.
The NISA said this violated a verbal instruction it issued in September 2014 banning the broadcasting of Al-Shabaab statements – an instruction that was never confirmed by any written government order.
“The Somali government’s harassment of Radio Shabelle’s personnel is turning this media outlet into a martyr of its censorship policies,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.
“We call for the immediate reopening of these two radio stations and the immediate release of Mohamed Muse and Ahmed Abdi Hassan, who just relayed information about a news development of particular interest to the Somali population. This is what journalists are supposed to do.”
The NISA filed a complaint against Muse and Hassan with the prosecutor-general’s office on 6 April, requesting their detention for an initial 20 days. The prosecutor-general refused to accept the complaint until the two journalists appear before him and, on the face of it, does not seem to support their arrests, which were not carried out under any law.
Radio Shabelle and Sky FM had only resumed broadcasting in mid-March after being closed since the last NISA raid on 15 August 2014, which resulted in the prolonged detention of several of their journalists.
These two radio stations are unfortunately not the only media outlets being targeted by Somali authorities.
Radio Goobjoog reporter Abdifatah Hassan Ahmed was arrested by police in Wadajir on 31 March and was held for seven days without any reason being given. His arrest was widely commented by fellow journalists as he is Somalia’s only blind journalist.
In Berbera, in the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland, Kalsan TV correspondent Ahmed Said Mohamed was arrested on 1 April while doing a report on a financial dispute between the regional authorities and the port authorities. He was given an arbitrary seven-day sentence the next day and is still being held by the police.
Somalia is ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.