Ahead of elections, Somali media told to keep off gov’t accountability reporting.

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Somalia’s spy chief Fahad Yasin Dahir has met with the independent media executives and editors in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu and gave them new instructions meant to silence critics ahead of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, Horn Observer has learnt.

In his first direct meeting with the independent media, the Director of National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) Fahad Yasin Dahir, a former journalist, informed Somali media directors and editors that the government will not tolerate opposition figures to criticize the government through the media and that local media who work with the government will be awarded- in attempt to gag the free press and put independent media coverage under complete control.

The Tuesday’s late night meeting was organized by the Director of Communications at the Office of the president, Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed, also a former journalist, according to three senior media executives who attended the meeting.

Mr. Abdinur initially invited the media directors and editors for what he termed as “a discussion with the Minister of Information” but media directors and editors only realized the official they were supposed to meet after they were taken to a hall where the man waiting them was Director of NISA, Fahad Yasin.

“Our cell phones and cameras were collected before the meeting started. We were told that the discussions will be off-the-record,” one media director told MOL while requesting to remain anonymous due to safety concerns “To our shock the Director of NISA entered the meeting hall.”

Mr. Fahad, a soft-spoken man, addressed the group of the media directors and editors without hesitation. He informed the media managers to minimize the coverage of the opposition figures and that media houses were not supposed to cover negatively about news related to the Somali transition and the upcoming 2020/2021 general elections.

“He gave us a message of that we were supposed to be part of the system not against it. Nobody could question him or say no to him,” a second media director who insisted to remain anonymous over fear of safety repercussion told MOL.

The spy chief further ordered the media representatives at the meeting to stop all government accountability related news coverage and to keep off security related reporting, according to a third source who attended this meeting.

“We are not sure how we can continue operating as an independent media in Mogadishu. I now fear for the safety of my journalists and my media,” said another radio editor who spoke to MOL.

The meeting came following an attack and beatings against Al-Jazeera and Reuters journalists in Mogadishu earlier in the week. Five journalists were also detained late last for covering a public bus drivers’ protest in Mogadishu.

As Somalia is planning to have its general elections late next year, Somali media activists say there is usually a climate of hostility against journalists and media outlets in every election cycle in the country putting journalists working in Somalia into more risks.

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