York, December 19, 2008--The only radio station in an Islamist-controlled
town in southern Somalia
was shuttered by militants in a raid last week, according to the station's
About 10 armed Al Shabab militiamen, a hardline Islamist
insurgent group controlling the coastal town of Kismayo since August, forced the local
station of independent broadcasting network HornAfrik
off the air on December 13, director Ahmed Mohamed Aden told CPJ. The militia
handed Aden an order signed by Sheikh Hassan Yaqub Ali, the information
secretary of the Islamic administration in Kismayo, accusing the station of airing music and "anti-Islamist"
information, he said.
"The forced closure of
HornAfrik in Kismayo indicates that there are no parts of Somalia where
press freedom is respected," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes.
"We call on the information secretary of the Islamic administration to reverse
his decision and allow Kismayo's only radio station, HornAfrik, back on the
air. The free-flow of news is in the country's best interest."
The raid took place in
the evening of December 13, shortly after the station aired a news item
reporting civilian casualties in fighting between Al Shabab fighters and local
militia in the southwestern town of Dobley, near
the Kenyan border, according to Aden.
Islamist administration spokesman Ali officially reported a total of seven
military casualties on both sides, but no civilian deaths, according to local
The raid occurred a day after HornAfrik celebrated its 12th
anniversary as Somalia's
first ever independent
broadcaster, according to news reports. Warlords, Islamists, and the Somali
Transitional Federal Government have variously attacked
the station over its coverage, according to CPJ research. HornAfrik's
Sharmarke was among seven journalists murdered in the line of duty in 2007.
Since capturing Kismayo
on August 23, the Al Shabab administration has imposed strict restrictions on
press freedom, including pre-broadcast censorship, according to local
journalists. The city remains one of the most dangerous for journalists in Somalia. This
year alone, two Kismayo-based journalists, Nasteh
Dahir Farah and Hassan
Kafi Hared, were murdered with total impunity.