SOMALIA: Mogadishu radio station shut down

Nairobi, 16 October 2006 (IRIN) - The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controls the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and much of the country's south-central area, has shut down the East Africa radio station in Mogadishu, an official of the station told IRIN on Monday.

"At around 7:00 a.m. local time yesterday, Islamic court people came to the radio station and informed the morning shift staff to shut down," Muhammed Mahamud Mo'allim, the radio manager, said.

"They have taken all the keys to the compound and the radio is still off the air," he added.

According to Mo'allim, the UIC said the radio was shut down because it belonged to Bashir Raghe, one of the warlords defeated by the UIC in June.

Abdirahim Ali Mudey, the UIC's head of communication and information, confirmed that the radio station had been shut down "due to misinformation and for fanning hate-filled messages that could lead to violence and not because it belonged to Bashir Raghe".

He added: "We allowed it to operate hoping that the new owners would bring in professional, responsible journalists to run it. When that did not happen we had to act."

Mudey said the radio station would be allowed to operate again "once a new management is set up".

In late September the UIC temporarily shut down the HornAfrik radio sub-station in the southern port city of Kismayo.

However, Mudey denied reports that the UIC was trying to gag the media. Last week, the UIC circulated rules governing the media, which would have curtailed media freedom, according to the watchdog, Reporters Without Borders.

"What was published was meant as a proposal and we forwarded it to the media community for their input," Mudey said.

HornAfrik radio and television managing partner, Ali Iman Sharmarke, told IRIN that the Mogadishu media community on Sunday met the UIC leadership represented by Mudey to discuss the proposed rules and concurred that they "were meant as proposal only".

Sharmarke said: "As a media practitioner, I can tell you that a media code of conduct is essential and long overdue in this country. What we don’t want is one that is imposed from outside that would undermine the freedom of the press."

He said the media groups were discussing different proposals and would present their views to the courts. Sharmarke said the media favoured "self-regulation and a self-enforced code of conduct".

Mudey said the courts respected the role of the media and "want to support an independent and responsible press; that is why we are consulting with them and we will wait to see what they come up with".

He added, "We are determined to uphold the freedom of the press."


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