The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today vigorously condemned the violent action by Somalia's security forces against a leading independent media network in Mogadishu.
According to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), on Saturday, 26 October, police cordoned off the building hosting Shabelle Media Network, which consists of Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, and barred the entry and exit of media workers until they broke the gate of the building.
The NUSOJ says that police confiscated the digital archives of the two radio stations and took the organisation's 36 journalists to the criminal investigations department where they were detained for more than six hours. It has been reported that all the equipment, documents and property of the journalists was taken away by the police.
"The authorities' heavy handed actions, arbitrary detention of journalists and shutting down of Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, shows blatant disregard for freedom of the media," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "This Shabelle Media Network raid is a common case of shooting the messenger."
According to the NUSOJ, the police raid occurred after the Ministry of Interior & National Security, acting on the orders of Ministry of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transports, gave the Shabelle Media Network five days to vacate the building. The NUSOJ says the government failed to obtain court orders to evict the journalists who were not only using the building as a workplace but also as a safe house due to a series of attacks in recent months.
"This is a well-orchestrated plan and we hold the Ministry of Information primarily responsible for this repression," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We call on government authorities to stop ruthlessly clamping down on Shabelle Media Network and its journalists who are providing information to the public."
The NUSOJ says the Ministry of Information had previously summoned the editors of Radio Shabelle to meet with them in July and September of this year due to their critical and independent reporting about issues involving government officials.
The Minister of Information, Abdullahi Ilmoge, announced yesterday that Shabelle Media Network refused to renew its licenses with the Ministry, but the NUSOJ says there is no law that obliges the radio station to pay an excessively expensive license.
"The desperation of the Ministry of Information to control an uncomfortable political news report has exposed their disregard for media freedom and freedom of expression and violated the right of Somalis to receive information," said Osman.
The IFJ is extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of the Shabelle journalists and has called for the Somali authorities to let journalists from Shabelle Media Network return to the building and put their radio station's back on air.
"We demand that Somali police immediately withdraw from the offices of all Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, return their equipment and allow them to go about their journalistic work," said Boumelha. "Both Radio Shabelle and SkyFM are still unable to broadcast anything they remain off the air."
In a separate incident, the IFJ and its African regional group, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), have expressed their deep sadness following the death of Somalian broadcast journalist Mohamed Mohamud Tima'ade who succumbed to wounds sustained in an assassination attempt.
The IFJ has called on the world community to address the safety crisis facing Somali journalists and the clampdown on Somalia's independent media community by the country's federal government.