Somalia’s Shabelle radio network raided; 19 staffers detained

New York, September 17, 2007—Members of the Somali Transitional National Government security forces raided the Radio Shabelle office in the capital, Mogadishu, Saturday morning and detained 19 staff members. The security forces accused the journalists of throwing a grenade at a police patrol, reported one of the detained staffers.

Security forces fired into a nearby hallway during a daily editorial meeting at the Shabelle office, forcing the journalists to take cover, reported one of the staff members. The Radio Shabelle staff were detained and harassed by the police at the central police station for two-and-a-half hours.
“The Somali government should be protecting journalists in the capital, not persecuting them,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Many Mogadishu-based journalists have been forced to flee the country due to the ongoing intimidation of journalists. We call on the government to stop this harassment and to move its forces away from the main gates of the Shabelle Media Network offices.”

According to local press reports, Somalia Police spokesman Abdel Wahid Mohamed confirmed the raid but said it was an “unfortunate incident” carried out by “undisciplined elements within the security forces.” Wahid denied the allegations that the journalists threw grenades at the security forces.

The chairman of Shabelle Media Network, Abdmalik Yusuf Mohammed, has appealed to the Transitional National Government to withdraw its forces stationed at the main gate of the radio station. Yusuf said the government soldiers are harassing any journalist entering the station’s premises at Bakara Market in downtown Mogadishu.

Last Wednesday, Somali soldiers made a mass arrest of 70 civilians in Bakara market, including Puntlandpost correspondent Mohamed Hussein Jimaale, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists. Privately-run Global Broadcasting Corporation Radio and TV station closed down last month in Huruwaa, Mogadishu, after more than 12 station staffers fled due to heightened insecurity in the area, reported the station’s owner, Dalmar Yusuf Ghelle.

Six Somali journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work this year, making it the second deadliest country worldwide for journalists in 2007, CPJ research shows. Only Iraq has been more lethal for journalists.