Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab’s announcement today that it is banning local radio stations in the regions it controls from retransmitting the broadcasts of the BBC and Voice of America on the grounds that they carry Christian propaganda.
“Already responsible for killing or kidnapping many journalists and a permanent climate of terror for the Somali media, Al-Shabaab has today added another misdeed to its long list of violations of free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The allegations Al-Shabaab makes against these international radio stations are absurd, while the threats it makes against local stations who retransmit their programmes are a disgrace,” the press freedom organisation added. “We urge it to respect freedom of information and to stop trying to silence Somali media.”
Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary-general of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said: “This repressive act against the BBC is a strong demonstration of the gravity of media repression by Al-Shabaab, [which] has demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the value of media freedom in the country.”
The NUSOJ is the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Somalia.
Warning local radio stations that their equipment would be seized if they did not respect the ban, Al-Shabaab accused the BBC of making “propaganda for the enemies of Muslims and for the Christian agents.” The statement added: “The BBC is owned by Britain and is the leading voice of the agendas of the Christian colony in the Muslim world.”
After issuing the statement, Al-Shabaab militiamen seized BBC equipment from locations in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Jowhar.
Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that journalist Abdul Karim Mohamed Hersi of radio Voice of the Holy Quran was released on 1 April, five days being kidnapped by Al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of Predators of Press Freedom for several years.