The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the crackdown and ransacking of Shabelle Media Network, the leading independent media network in Somalia, by the security forces of the Federal Government of Somalia, and considers it a serious threat to media freedom and freedom of expression in Somalia.
On the morning of Saturday, 26 October, security personnel cordoned off the building hosting Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, both part of Shabelle Media Network.
The police restricted the entry and exit of the workers, and then broke the gate of the building with a terrorist response police vehicle and forcefully entered the building.
Security forces started beating journalists with butts of their guns.
Radio Shabelle was on air during the attack and the public could hear the beatings and noise inside the studio until the police violently disabled computer servers and radio transmission equipment before shutting down the generators, effectively halting broadcasting indefinitely.
The police demanded the editors and management of Radio Shabelle and SkyFM to hand over the keys to the archives of the radio stations and to point out where digital recordings of the news and programs – such as CDs and flash disk – were.
The police reportedly searched documents in the offices and bedrooms of the journalists. Subsequently, journalists and the management of the two radio stations were all taken into a corner and their mobile phones switched off and collected by the police.
They were subsequently forced to board a police van to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). 36 journalists, including 7 female reporters, were taken to the CID and detained from 12:30 to 7:00pm.
The journalists were reportedly informed that they are under arrest and will soon be distributed to different police stations – groups of five will be taken to one police station.
Due to the height of the media campaign and the ugly turn of the crackdown, the journalists were in told to leave the CID in the evening. They refused, however, as they are target for Al-Shabaab – who could be waiting for them outside.
The journalists therefore preferred to stay at the CID until the next day, but the police forced them out. Some members of the Federal Parliament – who were present at the CID to observe what was going on – took the journalists to hotels in Mogadishu and the houses of Members of Parliament for safety.
The CID is currently working on criminal charges against 8 journalists and the chairman of Shabelle Media Network after having finished listening to recordings of the two radio stations, according to sources within the CID.
On Saturday at midnight, the police reportedly loaded all the equipment of the two radio stations, the archives of the two FM stations and the office equipment of Shabelle Media Network and took them to an unknown place.
Currently the building is occupied by the police. The building was not only a workplace for journalists but also a safe house, since the journalists are targeted by Al-Shabaab when they go out.
The attacked occurred after the Ministry of Interior and National Security ordered Shabelle Media Network to vacate the building – which is owned by the defunct Somali Airlines – within 5 days from 20 October. Shabelle Media Network had signed an agreement with the Ministry of Air, Land and Maritime Transport of the former Transitional Federal Government that permitted the media network to stay in the building until 2015, due to refurbishment costs of the building incurred by the media network.