MOGADISHU (AFP) — Three Mogadishu radio stations, shut down last month for allegedly fanning insurgent violence, went back on air Tuesday, after agreeing to broadcasting regulations imposed by the city's mayor.
The stations, Radio Simba, Radio Banadir and Radio Shabelle, were forced to halt operations in mid-November by Mayor Mohamed Omar Habeb, a former warlord.
Their managers said they were allowed back on air after signing a watered-down version of a decree that originally had banned the reporting of "military operations" without permission and interviewing "government opponents."
They said the mayor dropped the restrictions, but urged the radios to balance their coverage and ensure they rely on reliable sources for their information.
"The mayor has allowed us to resume broadcasting after we signed the amended version of the decree," said Abdullahi Shekalow of Radio Banadir.
"We are back on air," Radio Shabelle chief Muktar Mohamed told AFP.
Media watchdogs have condemned Habeb's restrictions, saying they add unnecessary pressure on the media in a country already ranked as the second-deadliest worldwide for journalists, according the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
At least eight journalists have been killed and dozens either detained, ambushed or robbed in Somalia since Ethiopia-backed government forces started battling insurgents in January.
Meanwhile, authorities in the Somali northern breakaway state of Somaliland expelled 22 journalists who had fled insecurity and harassment in Mogadishu.
"The Somaliland police commissioner came to our residence and ordered us to leave within 24 hours," said Mohamed Bashir Sheikh Abdirahman, one of the journalists who fled the seaside capital.
"He did not tell us why we should leave, but said our presence was a threat to the security and stability of Somaliland," he said in a telephone interview from the statelet's capital Hargeisa. Several of his colleagues confirmed the expulsion.
A former British protectorate, Somaliland united with the Italian Somalia in 1960. But it unilaterally broke away and announced independence 10 months after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted, in 1991.
Somaliland has been relatively peaceful compared to Somalia proper, except for recent clashes with the semi-autonomous region of Puntland over the precise demarcation of their border.
Press watchdogs have chided Somaliland for its heavy-handed crackdown on free press.
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