Radio station closed, journalists harassed

New York, June 19, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the closure of a radio station in Somalia, and the brief detention by militiamen of two of its journalists, over a report of an alleged Ethiopian incursion.

Somalia’s weakened transitional government, which is based in Baidoa, 155 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, closed down the local station of Radio Shabelle on Sunday after it broadcast a report saying that 300 Ethiopian soldiers had crossed into Somalia. The station’s deputy director, Mohamed Amiin, told CPJ that Radio Shabelle in Baidoa remained off the air today.

Amiin said that militiamen, acting on the orders of the Interior Minister Col. Hassan Mohammed Nur who is known as Shatigudud, entered its Baidoa premises and detained journalists Mohamed Adawe and Ali Mohamed Saed for about eight hours. The transitional government gave no explanation for its action.

“We condemn the closure of Radio Shabelle and the detention of its journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The transitional government must allow Radio Shabelle to resume broadcasting in Baidoa immediately, and ensure that journalists can cover the news without fear of reprisal.”

The Associated Press said that the government was reacting to reports of the alleged incursion on Radio Shabelle, which were aired both Saturday and Sunday. Amiin said the station stood by its report that Ethiopian troops had taken up positions at Baidoa airport over the weekend.

Islamists, who seized control of Mogadishu on June 6, also claimed that Ethiopian troops entered the country, according to international news reports. The Ethiopian government has denied this. President Abdullahi Yusuf’s transitional government is supported by Somalia’s neighbors, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union. Ethiopians were key power brokers in forming the transitional government in 2004.

Radio Shabelle, which is headquartered in Mogadishu, is the only station that broadcasts on FM in Baidoa, Amiin said.