MOGADISHU (AA) – The Somali government on Friday shut down two private radio stations and briefly detained several staff members for allegedly inciting the public against it.
Sky FM and Shabelle FM were both taken off air, while several journalists were arrested and interrogated by the Somali criminal investigation department, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohamed Yusuf told Anadolu Agency.
“I can confirm that the two Mogadishu radio stations have been shut down following a decision by the Defense Ministry,” Yusuf said.
“The government is convinced that Radio Shabelle and Sky are inciting the public in their reports of recent events in the capital,” Yusuf said without elaborating.
The detained journalists were later released following questioning.
According to Guled Mohamed, a Mogadishu-based media expert, the closure of the two stations was linked to fighting on Friday between African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces and a local clan militia.
“The two radio stations which are owned by one individual are seen to be against the recent disarmament operation in Mogadishu,” Mohamed said.
“Their reports were seen to be backing the Hawiye clan, which has been most affected by the [disarmament] exercise. The government sees this as incitement and a threat to national security,” he told AA.
The Somali army and AMISOM managed to confiscate a cache of weapons after raiding the home of a former Somali warlord in the city’s Madina district, which sparked fierce fighting between AMISOM and the local militia.
Speaking on behalf of the two radio stations, Said Gesey, chairman of the Somali Independent Media Houses Association, condemned the closures and arrest of the journalists.
“Somali independent media exercises the professionalism of the highest order when it comes to news reporting and gathering and faces great challenges from both the government and militant groups,” Gesey said in a statement.
In an interview with a US-based Somali-language TV channel earlier this week, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud accused most of Somalia’s private media of backing the Al-Shabaab militant group and clan militias.
The Somali government recently launched a campaign against unlicensed weapons in the violence-wracked Horn of Africa country.
Somalia has remained in the grip of political violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
It recently appeared to inch closer to stability with the intervention of African Union troops tasked with bringing Al-Shabaab to heel.
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