MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali security agents shut down two radio stations and ordered its reporters to leave a building they were occupying for non-payment of rent, a government official said on Sunday.
The official said the Shabelle Media Network’s stations had been given a deadline to leave the government-owned building, which they had initially refused.
“The issue is nothing to do with media freedom. But they were asked to leave government property that they had been in,” the Somali government official told Reuters.
The official said they eventually left and that no violence was involved.
An overseas-based official from the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) earlier said the stations, Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, were closed in connection with stories touching on accusations of corruption within government.
His statement said the reporters were beaten and detained for several hours.
However another official, Mohamed Ibrahim, based in Mogadishu and representing another arm of the splintered union, said the action had nothing to do with stories the stations had aired. He said the reporters were neither beaten nor detained.
It was unclear how the different accounts of the police action were obtained. The two groups representing NUSOJ run rival websites.
Police said they were carrying out the eviction order after the network failed to vacate the building. Both stations were housed in the same building, which also served as a residence for the journalists.
Journalists have been among the victims since Somalia descended into war in the early 1990s, with last year being the deadliest on record for journalists in the country, with 18 killed, according to NUSOJ.
Mogadishu’s security has been improving but many parts of the city remain no go areas for aid workers and journalists. All media companies and radio stations are based around the well-secured K4 and airport areas.
Somalia is a fragmented state where the federal government has limited control beyond the boundaries of Mogadishu. Islamist al Shabaab militants, who control swathes of countryside, still carry out bombings and shootings in the capital.
In a separate incident, Mohamed Mohamud, a journalist who was shot six times by gunmen on Tuesday, died on Saturday, bringing the number of reporters killed in Somalia this year to seven. He worked for the privately owned Universal TV.
“The government always said it would arrest the murderers but has done nothing to curb assassinations. This time we will not be quiet. It has to prove it is concerned,” Abdullahi Hirsi Kulmiye, East Africa bureau chief for Universal TV told Reuters.
Editing by Alison Williams