Somalia: The government insists: radios must play music



The government insists: radios must play music

Four private radio stations in Mogadishu have been accused of collusion with radical Islamists over music ban.

By Abdulkadir M. Wa’ays

At a press conference on Sunday 19 April 2010, the Secretary General for the government’s regional administration in the capital Mogadishu Abdikafi Hilowle Osman threatened to close down four privately owned radio stations for caving in to a music ban imposed on the local radio stations in the city by one of the major Islamist groups in Somalia.

14 privately owned radio stations in the capital turned off music on 13 April, after the top commander for Hisbul Islam in Mogadishu, Ma’allin Hashi Mohamed Farah, issued on 3 April 2010 a 10-day ultimatum to the Mogadishu-based radio stations to stop airing all kinds of music or face unspecified Sharia-based penalties.

The music ban aside, the Islamist group banned these radio stations from using the word ‘foreigners’ to refer to “their Muslim brothers who came from outside the country to help them fight against the enemy of Allah.”

The music must play
An official stated that his regional administration would not tolerate the four radio stations, which are located in the government-controlled area in the capital, to turn off music in full compliance with the Islamists’ music ban. The radio stations accused by the official are Tusmo, Somaliweyn, Voice of Peace, and Xurmo.

“We consider these radio stations are working with the insurgents and will be closed down,” he added.

Most of the owners of the FM radio stations in Somalia are members from the Somali diaspora in the West, who are directly or indirectly involved in what the UN Security Council’s recent Somalia Monitoring Group report has defined as a “complex hybrid warfare that conflates religious extremism, political and financial opportunism, and clan interests.”

Crocodile tears
Over the past decade, the Somali diaspora members in the West have been involved in setting up small FM radios throughout the country, with the intention to use them as a means to quickly move up the political ladder – a success story in many parts in Somalia. Some of them became ministers; some secured other key positions, while some others are hopefuls and keep pushing their ways into the various political entities in Somalia.

“The Somali journalists working at these privately owned radio stations are victims of their own employers. Their owners dictate the editorial policies of these radios in line with their personal agendas as well as the ever-shifting alliances and counter-alliances in the country’s political turmoil,” says a musician in Mogadishu on condition of anonymity. “These local radio stations had long sidelined reporting on the human rights violations committed against the musicians and their current outcries over the music ban are no more than crocodile tears.”

Alliance of convenience
“These young journalists, who are now making most of the talking about the music ban,” says a longtime freelance journalist in Mogadishu on condition of anonymity, “they are not the owners of these radio stations. The owners are quietly tongue-tied and pleased with their new marriage with the Islamists,” he reported.

“Aside from the crocodile tears these innocent young journalists are shedding on behalf of their employers, the whole exercise represents a new alliance of convenience between the owners of these radio stations and the Islamist groups and that the music ban was just used as a pretext for the new marriage,” said another journalist in Mogadishu, anonymously.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and two major Islamist groups now control most of the south and central regions of its territory. The beleaguered government of Somalia controls only small blocs of the capital Mogadishu and “owes its survival to the small African Union peace support operation, AMISOM, rather than to its own troops.”

Click to read Freemuse's Somalia analysis
Ma’allin Hashi Mohamed Farah

Click to read more about music in Somalia on

Read Abdulkadir M. Wa’ays’ Somalia analysis

7 April 2010:

‘Music ban on radio stations was expected’


Afrique en Ligne – 19 April 2010:

‘Somali journalists ‘alarmed’ over govt threat to shut radio stations’

International Press Institute – 19 April 2010:

‘Somalia Government Threatens to Close Radio Stations Complying…’

Dig deeper

AFP (San Francisco Examiner) – 20 April 2010:

‘Battle of the bans: Somali govt backs off order that radio stations ignore Islamist music ban’

Taragana Blog – 20 April 2010:

‘Battle of the bans: Somali govt backs off order that radio stations ignore Islamist music ban’

Gabiley News – 13 April 2010:

‘Somali radio stations comply with Islamists’ music ban’

Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation – 13 April 2010:

‘Musikkforbud i Somalia’  ‘Music ban in Somalia’

Entertainment Daily – 13 April 2010:

‘The day the music died: Somali radio stations heed Islamist order to stop playing songs’

Agence France Presse, AFP – 13 April 2010:

‘Somalia Islamists force music off air’

BBC News – 7 April 2010:
‘Somali anger at threat to music’

Click to listen / right-click to download mp3 audio file   Somalisan – recording of Hashi Mohamed Farah’s press conference in Mogadishu:
‘Shirkii jaraid ee macalin xaashi maxamed Faarax oo dhameystiran halkaan ka dhagyso’ – 5 April 2010:

‘Somalia: Islamist Group Orders Mogadishu Radios to Stop Airing Music’

Daily Nation – 4 April 2010:

‘No music, Somali radio ordered’

Ritzau / Jyllands-Posten – 4 April 2010: (In Danish language)

‘Islamister i Somalia: Slut med musik’

National Union of Somali Journalists – 3 April 2010:

‘Mogadishu Media Houses Ordered to End Broadcasting Music and Songs’

Somalisan – 3 April 2010:

‘Xisbul Islaam oo amaro culus ku soo rogay Idacadaha ku yaala…’

BBC News – 12 March 2010:

‘Mogadishu residents told to leave Somali capital’

ReliefWeb – United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia – 10 March 2010:

‘Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1853 (2008) (S/2010/91)’

Time – 19 May 2009:

‘In Somalia, Another Government Teetering?’

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