Last week’s 24-hour shutdown of Voice of America Somalia affiliate Horn Afrik Radio and three other Mogadishu media outlets may have signaled a new phase in the Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) consolidation of power. But for now, broadcast conditions have fully resumed, without any noticeable constraints or changes. From Mogadishu, Horn Afrik program producer Falastin Iman says that the outcry from last week’s shutdown drew calls of protest and support from all around the world.
“From the Somali and the international community, we received a lot of support. I cannot count how many calls. They’re calling their family, ‘What’s going on? We only listen to Horn Afrik,’ because Horn Afrik is the only radio they can listen to via satellite,” Iman said.
When asked what conditions the transitional government had imposed in a meeting last week in order to put the station back on the air, Iman said nothing specific had been demanded, except that the broadcasters accede to a series of new rules issued after the meeting by the Information Ministry.
“They said ‘we need to calibrate for the situation in Somalia and not to transmit for the menaces that oppose the government. The Minister of Information sent us new rules, and those are the rules for the media in Somalia,” she said.
Iman says that although the Mogadishu government last week sought to put its imprimatur on broadcast regulation by seeking cooperation from important media outlets there, she does not know if another closure or crackdown will occur.
“I am a journalist,” she says. “I know only of the situation in Pundtland, when President Abdullahi Yusuf was the President of the Pundtland. Maybe it will different, now that he is President of Somalia, not only of Pundtland. They don’t control our programs, and they said we need to cooperate with the people for the peace of Mogadishu not to air any usage which can make a contradiction to the peace of Mogadishu,” she said.
The Horn Afrik journalist says she does not think that the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia contributed to last week’s media shutdown. But she notes that during isolated outbreaks of violence in the capital, the occupying force has taken measures to shut out extensive media coverage.
“Sometimes, when accidents happen, they close the area and you cannot know what is going on in there. They don’t want to see the cameras and recorders and the journalists, so they cannot cover the area during the war at that time,” she said.
As for the future of news broadcasting in Somalia while the transitional government tries to rebuild its infrastructure, Iman says she remains optimistic.
“I wish that the government will understand how the free media can work, and although there is martial law now, after the martial law, maybe everything will be back normally, and I think that the government will consider the situation,” she said.