- Somalia's Islamic courts have increased their attacks on Mogadishu's free press during the last week, which has seen the closure of the privately-owned 'Radio Jowhar' and the 48-hour detention of Osman Adan Areys, a journalist based in the central city of Beledweyn. The Islamists have started to rigidly control the cultural life, including the press, in the Mogadishu region.
The regional government of Middle Shabelle, which is backed by the Islamic courts in Mogadishu, ordered the privately-owned Jowhar-based 'Radio Jowhar' to stop broadcasting music and songs on 9 September. The Islamist movement is trying to ban all kind of music in Somalia, along with other cultural expressions.
The French news agency AFP quoted a commander in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) as saying the aim was to stop the broadcasting of "music that promotes devilish behaviour." An Islamic court official quoted by the 'Associated Press' said: "It is useless to air music and love songs for the people."
After receiving the order, the management of 'Radio Jowhar' tried to argue that it was essential for the station to continue broadcasting music. An SICS armed unit then went to the station and stopped all further broadcasting, according to information gathered by the French press freedom group Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF). Jowhar's power company has also been ordered not to supply the station with any more electricity, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
Founded by intellectuals from different clans, 'Radio Jowhar' is Jowhar's only privately-owned radio station. It has tried to remain editorially independent at a time when many other stations are taking sides with the different political forces fighting for power.
RSF in a statement today condemned the "punitive measures taken by Somalia's Islamic courts against the press" in the past few days. "Radio Jowhar's attempts to maintain an independent editorial line in the terrible climate prevailing in Somalia deserve to be rewarded with respect, not with arbitrary closure. Similarly, journalists should not have to live in fear of being arrested by militiamen just because the facts they have reported have upset someone in authority," RSF added.
Meanwhile, a militia that supports the Islamic courts arrested Mr Areys, a local correspondent for privately-owned 'Radio Simba' and other Mogadishu-based stations, on 8 September in Beledweyn, the capital of the central region of Hiiraan, while he was covering a demonstration after Friday evening prayers in protest against any deployment of peacekeepers in Somalia.
Beledweyn-based journalists quoted by NUSOJ said Mr Areys was arrested because of a radio report in which members of the city's population complained about the restrictions being imposed by the Islamic courts. He was released yesterday without any charges being pressed, according to RSF.
"It is painful to see that, for the Somali population, anarchy is gradually being replaced by oppression," RSF commented. "It is not too late for the Islamic tribunals to realise that maintaining order is not a matter of imposing prohibitions and a reign of fear," the press freedom group added.
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