News / Africa

Media Rights Group Cautions that Independent Media in Somalia May Disappear

A Somali media rights group is voicing grave concern that the continuing lack of security, growing censorship, and dwindling domestic and international support for journalists in Somalia could wipe out independent media in the country.  

The National Union of Somali Journalists says Somalia's once-thriving independent media will cease to exist, if the current crackdown on media organizations continues unchecked.

The general secretary of the media rights group, Omar Faruk Osman, tells VOA that members of the country's powerful radical Islamist groups - al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam - have threatened the media into submission, raising serious concerns about whether the Somali people will ever have access to uncensored news again.

"There is oppression of the media in every place of the country," said Omar Faruk Osman. "But the situation is extremely out of hand in Mogadishu.  It is content.  It is programs.  It is interviews being censored by Hizbul Islam and al-Shabab.  They are not allowing the media to operate freely and independently.  Our fear now is that people in Mogadishu will miss independent and critical information coming from media [that is] not politically allied with any of the warring sides in the country."

Since 2007, al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants have steadily consolidated power in southern Somalia, partly by seizing media stations in areas under their control.  The group controls radio stations in strategic towns such as Baidoa in the Bay region and the port town of Kismayo in the south.  

In early 2009, another fundamentalist insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, joined al-Shabab in its efforts to topple the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.  Despite backing by the United Nations and the presence of the 5,300-member African Union peacekeeping troops, the fragile government has been unable to expand its reach beyond a few blocks of the capital.  

Osman says extremists, determined to implement their strict version of Islamic law in every part of Somalia, have fiercely targeted the media in Mogadishu to help them achieve their goal.   He says private media organizations are also suffering financially because many businesses are too afraid to buy time for advertisements.  

"Media is a powerful tool and has influence in the communities," he said. "Because of that, they attack the media.  At the end of the day, there is no rule of law in the country.  There is a rule of the gun and if one does not abide by the rules imposed illegally, then someone having a gun will kill you.  And that is what is happening."

On Wednesday, Hizbul Islam forced 14 private radio stations in Mogadishu to stop broadcasting music, which the group called "un-Islamic."  Radio stations say they complied with the order following threats.  Last week, al-Shabab also forced the private radio stations to drop VOA and BBC programs, calling them western propaganda that violated Islam.  

Osman is equally critical of the international community.  He says donor nations are undermining private media in Somalia by withholding funding.  He says the money that should be going to Somali journalists is now going to fund radio stations recently established to counter extremist propaganda.

With donor backing, the Transitional Federal Government launched Radio Mogadishu last year.  And the U.N. support office for the African Union peacekeeping mission established Radio Bar-Kulan, which broadcasts from Nairobi but is heard in Mogadishu on an FM station. Osman says in the capital, neither station is viewed as an outlet that reflects the voice of the people.  

Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for working journalists.  The National Union of Somali Journalists says at least 19 media professionals have been killed there since 2007.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More