Islamist gunmen who captured the Somali port of Kismayo have forcibly closed a private media network which they accuse of distorting news about protests against the takeover, journalists said on Friday. Islamist fighters on battle-wagons turned up at HornAfrik Radio’s Kismayo offices late on Thursday, ordering staff to stop operations, the National Union of Somali Journalists said. The Islamists, who control a swathe of southern Somalia, seized Kismayo on Monday without firing a shot - but their arrival has been met with several protests.
HornAfrik’s Kismayo station director, Ahmed Mohamed, said three of his reporters had been briefly detained today. “Three of our reporters were arrested this morning. I had to flee last night to avoid arrest,” Mohamed told Reuters by telephone. “They say we reported false information on the recent protests and of having links with the former administration.” But he denied the station had relations with the Juba Valley Alliance, an independent authority which controlled the region around Somalia’s third largest city before Islamists took over.
Sahra Abdi, one of the detained HornAfrik journalists, said those arrested were warned about their reporting. “They told us to avoid inflaming the already charged situation,” she said. “The radio station is still closed until further notice.”
Islamist official Ibrahim Shukri said the Kismayo station had been closed for spreading false information. ”We saw them as a danger to security. They have a responsibility and should not report false news” he said.
Earlier in September, the Islamists closed another radio station in the town of Jowhar for playing love songs. It was allowed to re-open after promising to stop broadcasting music.