Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns yesterday's assaults by Islamist militias on two radio stations in Mogadishu. Radio HornAfrik was ransacked and looted by members of Al-Shabaab while Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) was taken over by Hizb-Al-Islam, which has decided to use it for broadcasting its own propaganda.
For more information about yesterday's raids, read this press release by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Reporters Without Borders partner in Somalia. According to the transitional government in Mogadishu, they bring to five the number of radio stations that have been attacked or forcibly taken over by Islamist rebels.
These raids have yet again highlighted the difficulties and dangers for journalists working in the war zone. They are priority targets while control of their media has become objectives for the various warring parties. Reporters Without Borders urges the international community to consider ways to protect them.
The latest evolution in the fighting in Somalia is very disturbing and suggests that Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam are bent on putting a stop to the work of all the independent media. In their eyes, an independent press has no right to exist. In their eyes, there is only room for media that support their ideological and religious views.
After pressuring the media over their coverage, after a wave of kidnappings of journalists, the insurgents are now attacking radio stations and either confiscating or taking control of their equipment. Radio stations, Somalia's most developed form of media, are being particularly targeted. The Islamist movements are adopting the strategy of Afghanistan's Taliban, who have realised that the media are part of the key to winning their war.
Such attacks are a complete violation of international law governing actions in wartime. Reporters Without Borders urges the belligerents to spare innocent civilians and journalists, who are particularly exposed.
Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam are both on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Predators of Press Freedom".