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IFJ Challenges Somali Extremists and International Community over Independent Media

Mogadishu Friday 16 April 2010 SMC 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global voice of journalists, has expressed fresh concern over efforts on all sides in Somalia to wipe out independent media. The intervention follows a serious deterioration of the situation for private media outlets operating out of Somalia's densely populated and war-torn capital city of Mogadishu. 

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFJ affiliate, the Somali Islamist insurgent group, Hisbul Islam, has imposed bans on radio stations instructing them not to air music and songs and to refer to foreign fighters fighting the country not as "foreigners", but as "Muhaajiriin". Some 14 radio stations in Mogadishu buckled under this pressure and implemented the Hisbul Islam edict after a ten-day ultimatum.

"This latest action coming after months and years of violent intimidation illustrates the wretched state of press freedom in Somalia," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Journalists are in the frontline of the struggle for peace and democracy in Somalia and they must be supported."     

The IFJ says that the latest censorship is in line with similar actions been imposed on media stations in the southern Somalia regions held by Al-Shabaab Islamic extremists group. Many journalists fled or became Al-Shabaab hostages. This group took over Radio stations in Baidoa and Kismayu. 

The IFJ says that media have also suffered as Somali extremist groups have put pressure on some trading companies not to place advertisements with particular media companies. Media and independent journalism have taken a hit too as donor support has diminished. 

"The threats and bullying of journalists and the financial uncertainty surrounding private media have created a dangerous and despairing environment," said White. "More must be done to support media and to ensure the survival of independent journalism." 

Radio Mogadishu, which is run and controlled by the Transitional Federation Government of Somalia (TFG), was launched to counter propaganda of Al-Shabaab.  Newly established Radio Bar-Kulan, broadcasted in Nairobi but transmitted in strong FM station in Mogadishu, with the funding of the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) is widely believed by the local media to support African Union Peace Keeping Troops in Mogadishu. 

"The international community must not reduce its commitment to fund and to support media nor should it show hesitation in backing the private sector," said White. "These are the vital outlets that reflect the independent voice of the Somali people. If international support is withdrawn it will open the door to new pressure from extremists and the enemies of press freedom."  

For more information contact the IFJ at     +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide

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