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Somali Government Regulates Reporting on al-Shabab

FILE - Somalians come out onto the streets after the government and AU troops drive al-Shabab militants from their community as part of military offensive to oust al-Shabab from its last major hideouts.

The Somali government is on the offensive to take more ground from the militant group al-Shabab. And in the capital Mogadishu, the government is putting pressure on local media as to how they can report the offensive - and warning against broadcasting anything from the terror group.

At the beginning of this week, Somali forces, backed by African Union troops, launched another push against al-Shabab dubbed "Operation Indian Ocean.”

Then on Tuesday, Somali security officials in Mogadishu convened all Somali media directors and owners and issued directives on how they will be required to do their journalistic work.

The officials specifically warned against interviewing and broadcasting any news related to the insurgent group. They also demanded broadcasters contact only the internal security spokesman on matters related to the security operations in the country.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Secretary-General, Mohamed Ibrahim, said the government directives are not clear and are causing confusion.

"Al-Shabab related information cannot be broadcast, does this mean that al-Shabab cannot be interviewed? Does this mean that also all the al-Shabab information will not be broadcast? And the other order - which is related to the security operations - also there is need for explanation," he said.

Ibrahim said when pressed for an explanation, once security official said the main concern was hidden messages in al-Shabab communications.

"He told us they were very concerned with direct quotation that al-Shabab is giving to the local media. They said it was terrorizing the public," he stated.

In mid-August, Somali forces stormed two radio stations, Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, seizing equipment and arresting 20 staff in the process.

The government accused the two stations of negative broadcasts about its forces and said this was interfering with ongoing operations to take more ground from al-Shabab and disarm former warlords and businessmen.

The warring groups in Somalia - including the militant group - have also threatened some media stations over their reporting.

The international watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists, ranked Somalia the second-most dangerous place to be a journalist.