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Cablegate: Somalia - Two Recent Media Outlet Closures

VZCZCXRO7254
PP RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHNR #2892 3651608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301608Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8090
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 3159
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS NAIROBI 002892

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/E AND A/S FRAZER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KPAO PREL PGOV SO
SUBJECT: Somalia - Two Recent Media Outlet Closures

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Summary
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1. (SBU) Islamists allegedly forced the closure of two radio
stations in Somalia in mid-December, both reportedly for playing
music of which they did not approve. Radio Markabley was closed
from December 10 for two days. HornAfrik's Kismayo office was
closed on December 13 and remains closed as of December 30, although
one contact speculates that the closure may be the result of an
internal dispute rather than al-Shabaab's desire to silence the
station. Both stations have expressed surprise and disappointment
at the closures and we continue to monitor both situations. End
summary.

-----------------------
Radio Markabley Closed
Over "Love Songs"
-----------------------

2. (SBU) Ahmed Omar Salihi, Director of Markabley Radio and a post
contact, told us that on December 10, the "Islamic Courts" who
control Bardera town ordered Radio Markabley closed for releasing "a
lot of love songs and music which is foreign to the Islamic
religion." Salihi reported that the chief security officer and two
other officers entered the radio director's office and ordered the
director to cease all activities of the Radio. Ahmed A. Farah Ato,
an owner of the radio who was present at the time, attempted to
defuse the situation by explaining the station's goals of helping
the community. Salihi tells us that Ato argued that the station's
programs are beneficial to the community, with 90% of the programs
aimed at subjects like peace and reconciliation, HIV/AIDS, women's
issues, security, and health. Salihi reported that the station was
closed for two days, but reopened after determined negotiations and
pressure from the Bardera community, who depend on Radio Markabley
as a link to the world beyond the town's borders.

------------------
HornAfrik Closure:
Forced or Staged?
------------------

3. (SBU) On December 13, HornAfrik's Kismayo office was closed and
the station remains off-air as of December 30, according to
HornAfrik Managing Partner Lul Sharmarke. Sharmarke told us that
the station's Kismayo office was closed "by Al Shabaab," who claimed
that no radio station should "air any kind of music." Sharmarke
reported that no one was arrested or otherwise harassed, but that
the station has not been allowed to re-open. She said the
management of the Kismayo office continues to negotiate with
al-Shabaab.

4. (SBU) We asked some of our contacts why the HornAfrik closure did
not result in the usual outcry from media-related NGO's who monitor
freedom of the press in Somalia. One contact said that he has heard
this closure may be the result of a dispute between Lul Sharmarke
and other stakeholders, rather than a hostile al-Shabaab action.
(Note: We are monitoring HornAfrik's management, as this is not the
first report we have had regarding a possible internal conflict.)
NGOs are reserving comment until such time as they can confirm the
circumstances of this closure.

------------
Post Actions
------------

5. (SBU) As is our practice in cases like these, we immediately
reached out to the stations involved, both of which are contacts of
the Somalia Unit. We have also contacted the TFG's Minister of
Information to inquire about the facts of the incidents and to
register our concern. The Minister, who also serves as Deputy Prime
Minister and who has recently had very little time to dedicate to
the Information Minister portfolio, has not replied to date. (Note:
The Minister in question, Ahmed Abdisalam Aden, is one of the three
founders of HornAfrik but claims to have given up his share of the
station when he assumed his role in the TFG.)

RANNEBERGER

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