Two radio stations closed down for airing music
Somali Islamist groups have unleashed a renewed crackdown on the radio stations in the areas under their control for airing music and music-related programmes. They have made significant military gains in recent months, regaining control of 90 percent of south and central Somalia including parts of the capital, Mogadishu.
By Abdulkadir M. Wa’ays
On Wednesday evening 10 December 2008, armed Islamist militiamen raided Markabley Radio Station in the town of Bardere in Gedo region, about 385 kilometres northwest of the capital Mogadishu, and ordered the journalists at the station to immediately switch it off air.
The town of Bardere
The director of the radio, Ahmed Omar Salihi, told local reporters that militiamen led by the security chief of the Islamist faction that controls the Gedo region, Sheikh Barre “Qoje” Mohamed Farah, had raided his radio station, and told him that they had disobeyed their former order of not to air music and music related programs, which in their interpretation of Islam are ‘un-Islamic’.
Most of south and central Somalia is now in the hands of splinter groups of Islamists, who fell out with the former Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) leadership over a controversial power-sharing deal brokered by the UN between UIC and the Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government in Djibouti.
As a result, some of these Islamist factions have now already joined or are in the process of joining al-Shabaab — the most militant and sophisticated Jihadi group in Somalia in terms of its organisational capability and financial resources — which split from the former UIC, and repeatedly claims affiliation to al-Qaeda.
“We have already stopped airing love songs and music, but the last two days we have been airing songs about and for the festival with the intent to celebrate with the public the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha,” said the radio director.
A group of local journalists in the town of Bardere opened Radio Markabley on 6 February 2008. The current Islamist faction, who controls the Gedo region, installed an Islamist administration in the town of Bardere on 14 October 2008, after their militia had forcefully taken it over from a local clan militia controlling the town.
Regarding the replacement of music with jhadi free instrument songs, both the director and the journalists at Radio Markabley say they can not speak on the record about these issues.
It is a new trend not only with this radio station but also with all other local radios in the Islamists-held areas of having quietly replaced music with jihadi songs and sermons, and yet trying to hide it from being reported to the outside world.
Another radio station closed down
As part of their unrelenting efforts to impose strict form of Islamic law as opposed to the traditionally practiced moderate one in the areas under their rule, the Somali Islamists have silenced another radio station for airing music and ‘anti-Islamist’ information.
On 13 December 2008, about 10 armed militiamen from al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group controlling the coastal town of Kismayo, closed down the local station of Radio HornAfrik, which has its main station in Mogadishu.
The director of the local station in Kismayo, Ahmed Mohamed Aden, told CPJ that the militiamen had handed him an order signed by Sheikh Hassan Ya’qub Ali, the information secretary of al-Shabaab‘s administration in Kismayo, accusing the station of airing music and ‘anti-Islamist’ information.
Al-Shabaab captured the coastal town of Kismayo on 23 August 2008 from local clan militia controlling the town. The most shocking punishment, among others, that this group has carried out was a recent public-stoning-to-death of a 13-year-old girl in the town.
Radio journalists surrendered
However, Radio Markabley came back on air on 13 December 2008, after the leaders of the Islamist administration and the radio station management had worked out a deal that has apparently satisfied both parties.
The director of Radio Markabley told local reporters that his radio had agreed to abide by the order of the Islamists that they would stop airing all kinds of music and music-related programmes and instead would broadcast poems and instrument-free nasheeds, Islamists’ songs. On their part, he said, the Islamists made concession on the short signature tunes of the radio programmes.
“The radio stations operating in the Islamist-held areas in Somalia are often ordered by the Islamists to stop airing songs and music-related programs and instead broadcast Koranic verses, instrument-free Islamist songs and selective Islamic sermons glorifying the Jihad against unbelievers, and promoting anti-Western dogmas as well,” some Somali journalists based in Mogadishu told Freemuse. They did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“But, you know, circumstances always oblige the journalists to abide by such harsh orders, because they fear to lose their jobs had their radios be closed down or they avoid to put their lives to danger had they disobey these orders,” argued the journalists.