November 14, 2007 / 10:44 AM / 10 years ago

Mogadishu mayor defends Somali media crackdown

4 Min Read

By Aweys Yusuf

MOGADISHU, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Mogadishu's mayor defended on Wednesday a government crackdown on Somali media that has been condemned by rights groups, saying three radio stations were closed this week because they were spreading lies.

In the latest attack on local media, government forces raided Simba Radio and Radio Banadir on Tuesday, a day after shutting down Shabelle Radio for the eighth time this year.

"These three radio stations have been closed down because they have no permit. We told them repeatedly to get the official documents, but they ignored the government notification," Mayor Mohamed Dheere told Reuters.

Dheere, a former warlord, also accused the private stations of undermining national security by fabricating reports that the presidential palace had been hit by mortar bombs.

"These radios have generated violence by airing exaggerated false reports. So, we have to crack down on them because of national security interests," he said.

"The international community does not have to pressure us over lies told by the media."

Staff at Simba and Shabelle said both stations had obtained the necessary operating licence and stood by their broadcasts.

"We have been shut down because the government is oppressing us as an independent media not to report the killings and violence happening in Mogadishu," Shabelle Radio News Editor Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala told Reuters.



ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS

Attacks on journalists in the lawless Horn of Africa country have multiplied this year.

Seven reporters have been killed in Somalia since January, when government troops and their Ethiopian allies routed a rival Islamist movement, spawning an insurgency that has been punctuated by roadside bombings and political killings.

The fighting has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee the lawless capital -- prompting a U.N. envoy to call the humanitarian crisis the worst in Africa.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a media watchdog, called the radio closures "crude and unacceptable censorship".

"Any time the authorities in Mogadishu hear unwelcome news of the fighting in the city they send troops crashing through the door of the radio station responsible," its executive director Joel Simon said in a statement.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network urged the interim government -- the 14th attempt at restoring central rule since the 1991 ouster of President Mohamed Siad Barre -- to end its press clampdown if it wanted to establish democratic rule.

In a separate development, a landmine killed six people and wounded 15 others riding a bus on Tuesday in the breakaway northern republic of Somaliland, officials said.

The accident took place in Goroyo Hun, which is laced with mines planted during a 1977-78 war with Ethiopia. (Additional reporting by Hussein Ali Noor in Hargeisa; Writing by Katie Nguyen; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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