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Published On: Wed, Apr 8th, 2015

Somalia: Authorities arrest Shabelle Media Network journalists, close station again

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cpj_logo22Nairobi, April 7, 2014-Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency raided the Shabelle Media Network offices on April 3, arrested staff and shuttered the privately ownedstations Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, according to local journalists. The raid came after the network aired a clip of the militant group Al-Shabab claiming responsibility for the attack on a university in Kenya, a Security Ministry spokesman said.

On Friday evening, security agents arrested 20 journalists and confiscated equipment from the Shabelle Media Network offices in the capital, Mogadishu, local journalists and news reports said. Security agents released all but two of the journalists without charge around midnight the same day, the same sources told CPJ. Security agents held Radio Shabelle Director Mohamed Muse and Editor Ahmed Abdi Hassan at the National Intelligence detention center, local journalists, including one connected to the Shabelle Network, said. Neither Muse nor Hassan have been charged, local journalists and reports said.

A report from Shabelle Media Network’s website said vital broadcasting equipment was taken by agents, and no reason for the raid was given. The stations had only recently resumed broadcasting after being raided by authorities in August 2014, local journalists said.

The raid occurred after the media network aired an audio clip of Sheikh Ali Dheere, spokesman for the militant group Al-Shabab, claiming responsibility for the attack on Garissa, northern Kenya, Somalia’s security ministry spokesman Mohamed Yusuf told CPJ. The station aired the clip despite a verbal directive from the security agency on September 1, 2014 that banned media houses from airing live video and audio clips of the Al-Shabab insurgents, he added.

Five Al-Shabab gunmen killed an estimated 148 people on April 2, in a pre-dawn attack on Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya; nearly all the casualties were students, according to news reports.

“Somali authorities are repeatedly harassing and censoring these two stations,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “The authorities should release both journalists immediately, return the station’s equipment, and allow Shabelle back on air.”

The media network had only re-commenced broadcasting in mid-March after authorities raided its offices in August last year and arrested three journalists for airing programs which they claimed incited the public to violence by encouraging clans to fight security forces, government spokesman Abdirahman Omar told CPJ. On September 6, security agents also arrested Shabelle Media Network Producer Mohamed Bashir Hashi near his home in Mogadishu, local journalists said. A court released two of the journalists in October and two in March, and sentenced them with heavy fines, according to CPJ research.

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