Police fire on Somalia’s Radio Shabelle

New York, September 18, 2007—CPJ condemns the attack by Somali security forces on the Radio Shabelle compound this morning. Forces opened fire on the building with staff inside, forcing the station off the air.According to local journalists, police fired repeatedly from 10 a.m. to noon at the doors and windows at the compound while staff took cover.No casualties were reported and most staff members managed to escape during a brief respite in the shooting, said the journalists.

The violence began when unknown insurgents set off a bomb near the Shabelle compound in the highly volatile Bakara Market region at around 10 a.m.The police responded by firing indiscriminately at the Shabelle building, believing the insurgents were inside, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists.However, local journalists suspect the police also targeted the station specifically.Shabelle, among other local radio stations, has been critical of both the government and militias in its reporting on the nine-month-long insurgency in Mogadishu.

“We’re outraged by this brazen attack on Radio Shabelle, which has been subjected to an appalling campaign of persecution,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “The transitional government must immediately withdraw the security forces and provide effective protection in the Bakara Market.”

Radio Shabelle announced the station would close down this evening and remain off the air until security improved, the union reported.

The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia repositioned hundreds of troops into the Bakara Market this morning after removing them yesterday evening.The troops were temporarily withdrawn from the area after local residents and businesses demonstrated against their presence, reported the union and Shabelle Net, a daily Web site run by the same company that owns the radio station.

Only four days ago, police raided Radio Shabelle and detained 19 staff members, accusing them of throwing a grenade at a police squad.Last Wednesday, Somali soldiers arrested 70 civilians in Bakara Market, including Puntlandpost correspondent Mohamed Hussein Jimaale, according to the union.

According to CPJ research, six Somali journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work this year, making it the second deadliest country worldwide—after Iraq—for journalists in 2007.