In Somalia, the Shabelle Media Network says it’s ceasing all media operations after government soldiers fired on its offices.
A statement says forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) opened fire on the building in Mogadishu Wednesday and Thursday, destroying radio equipment. The chairman of Shabelle media calls it an inhuman and savage attack on freedom of speech.
Leonard Vincent is the head of the Africa desk with the group Reporters Without Borders. From Paris, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the incident.
“It’s no surprise for us that Shabelle has been in trouble again. It’s not the first time this radio station and other radio stations in Mogadishu have been in trouble with the TFG. Now, the situation today is much too dangerous for the personnel of Radio Shabelle to go back to work. So this is I guess why the executives have decided to stop broadcasting,” he says.
Asked why the TFG might target Radio Shabelle, Vincent says, “It’s a very complicated story inMogadishu. And Somalia as a whole is divided into clans and sub-clans and we believe that…the building where Shabelle has its office…is in the middle of an insurgents’ stronghold. It’s a very chaotic neighborhood in Mogadishu. Twice in three of four days a grenade was thrown at a patrol of police in this neighborhood. And we believe that the army and the intelligence service think and suspect an insurgent throwing grenades from inside the building.”
He adds, “Shabelle is identified by the Somali police and the Somali army as a hostile entity. And it is not the first time that it has been in trouble…it has been in trouble for it’s broadcasts, for the news they have been reporting before. But on this specific situation we don’t know exactly why they attacked the building. This is only our hypothesis based on the different contacts we’ve had…we believe that the story is more of a clan hostility story.” T
The group has raised it's concerns with the TFG. "We have tried to convince for the last month the TFG that this kind of division in the society, clans and sub-clans, should not be taken as an analysis for the future society of what should be Mogadishu and what should be Somalia...even if they consider that Horn Afrik Radio or Shabelle Radio or other media that are close to the Eyr clan are naturally hostile. It is not a reason to attack them They should on the contrary dialogue with them...and see that the people who are working for Shabelle Radio and Horn Afrik are only journalists reporting reality. " says Vincent.
The Committee to project Journalists says Radio Shabelle played a crucial role in informing the public during the conflict. It calls on the TFG to allow radio Shabelle to be up and running again as soon as possible.