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Somalia: Government Closes Stations

The Somalia National Transitional Government (TFG) has ordered the closure of a number of FM radio stations and a television outlet in Mogadishu. Among the stations closed are Horn Afrik Media and an Al Jazeera television station.

Ali Iman Sharmarke is the managing director for Horn Afrik Media, an affiliate of the Voice of America in Mogadishu. He explained how he learnt about the closure of his station.

“Today at 1:30, I received a letter from an office called National Security Agency office. It is a newly created agency within the Transitional Federal Government. The letter instructed Horn Afrik among other radio stations in Mogadishu as well as Al Jazeera office here in Mogadishu to be closed immediately,” he said.

Sharmarke said the authorities gave no further information as to why they ordered the closure of his station and the others.

“The only line in the paper that indicates a future involvement was a line that was saying tomorrow morning (Tuesday) come at the office of the National Security Agency,” he said.

Sharmarke also said he was not sure whether the closure could be related to the martial law declared over the weekend by the Transitional Government.

“On Saturday they passed what they called a martial law. The martial law was intended to give more power to the president. We don’t know whether it is related to that martial law or whether they have something in mind,” Sharmarke said.

He cited an interview which he said was given to news organizations by a government spokesman in which the spokesman said the stations would be given instructions Tuesday, and whether or not they resume broadcasting would be determined by the way the stations would accept their new instructions.

Sharmarke refused to speculate whether the government might have closed the stations because it might have been suspected the stations of being sympathetic to the ousted Islamist Courts.

“Actually there was a question asked to some of the officials about that and they didn’t say so. But when it comes to affiliation or support, the Horn Afrik Media was opened in 1999 in Mogadishu and has affiliate stations in different regions…the seven years that we have been operating, we went through a lot of difficult time. So for someone to accuse Horn Afrik of supporting the Islamist Courts or any other groups it’s a matter of convenience.

He said his station suffered persecution under the Islamist Courts

“Actually, a year and half ago, the Islamist Courts accused Horn of Afrik of serving the interest of Christianity which was not the case. Horn Afrik doesn’t have any affiliation of religious case,” he said.

Sharmarke said his station might have been closed down for its popularity.

“Absolutely. That’s the only explanation I have because some of the members who are members of the TFG are well aware of the conditions that Horn Afrik has been operating, and they know Horn Afrik is very popular. Horn of Afrik has affiliation with stations and also listened to by Somali Diaspora in different continents live. So they are concerned about the popularity and the credibility of the station rather than any deficiency about our work,” he said.