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Somali Government Reverses Ban on Media Closures


The Somali government appears to have reversed a ban on four media outlets it imposed Monday. As Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi, the closures of the outlets received widespread international condemnation.

Radio HornAfrik, Shabelle Media Network, Voice of Holy Quran, and the Mogadishu office of al-Jazeera are now up and running following a meeting of media executives and government officials.

The outlets were given an order Monday to cease operating and report to the office of national security.

Although no official reason for the closures was given, the government spokesman was quoted in media reports as saying the outlets need to get a license and stop "airing unconfirmed reports."

The action came several days after the government imposed martial law on the capital.

The closure of the stations received international condemnation. The head of Reporters Without Borders' Africa desk, Leonard Vincent, summarizes the concerns of the international and press freedom community.

"The government does not understand that when they believe that closing down radios will maintain law and order, it will only radicalize the position of their opponents, make them [the government] look like a despotic regime, and endanger national unity," he said. "Because they will be seen as people who use force rather than dialogue to deal with the people that do not agree with them."

Somalia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Esmael Mohamud Hurreh tells VOA his government believes in free expression and freedom of the press. He says the media outlets' closure was a temporary measure within the context of martial law to bring stability back to the country following the ouster of the Islamic Courts Union.

"These were Islamist mouthpieces as anybody knows," he said. "So I think it is not a matter of closing them altogether, it is just putting pressure on them."

Six independent radio stations and the state-run Radio Mogadishu are based in the capital, along with several independent newspapers.

The Somali government is trying to stabilize the volatile and gun-ridden capital following several weeks of warfare, during which Ethiopian-backed government troops clashed with fighters loyal to the Islamic Courts Union. The Islamists abandoned their key posts in various locations in the country.

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