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Somali Radio Stations Silenced After Ethiopian PM's Visit

The Somali government has closed down three main FM stations in the capital, Mogadishu. Katy Migiro reports for VOA that the media clampdown follows a surprise visit by the Ethiopian Prime Minister aimed at shoring up confidence in the Somali government.

Shabelle Media Network, Horn Afrik and IQK, a Koranic radio station, were all shut down by a Somali government decree.

This is the second time these three radio stations have been targeted in the past six months. No reason has been given for this latest closure.

But announcer Mohamed Kawashito, of Radio Puntland that operates in the semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia, says private radio stations are shut down when they criticize the government. The stations have in the past been accused of pro-Islamic bias.

"Several times the traditional government has banned the Shabelle radio, Horn Afrik radio," he said. "We do not know the reason, but I think sometimes the local station and local media pointed to bad things or the bad situation in the central government or traditional government."

Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi paid a surprise visit to Mogadishu. Mr. Meles' trip was aimed at boosting the morale of his troops, which invaded and occupied Somalia in December, as well as that of Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi who survived a fourth assassination attempt on Sunday.

But the secretive nature of the unpublicized Meles trip only underscored how dangerous and violent the Somali capital is.

Nairobi-based Somali analyst Daudi Aweis compares Meles trip to the surprise visits by U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Iraq, which he fears Somalia is starting to resemble, especially in the increasing numbers of suicide attacks against targets regarded by some as supporting a foreign occupying force.

Aweis says the only solution to Somalia's problems is through negotiations, not violence.

"The best way forward is to have negotiations, because all these problems are well known," he said. "If they are discussed deeply, a solution can be obtained. But the military solution will not be the best option to solve these problems. Because if you try to defeat one side or to exclude one group from the Cabinet or from the government, it means that that group, according to their clan lines, they are going to regroup. It takes for them two or three years and they can come back. So the problem is there again."

Aweis believes there is little hope that progress will be made at the national reconciliation conference, due to open on June 14.

The transitional government has said it will not talk with the Islamic Courts, ousted in December, and the Islamic Courts say they will not come to the negotiating table until Ethiopian troops withdraw.