Somalia’s government announced Saturday a crackdown on media outlets that publish what it deems propaganda for the Islamist militant group al-Shabab and warned that offenders would be punished.
The move comes as Somalia’s armed forces, backed by local militias and international allies, wage an aggressive counteroffensive against the al-Qaida affiliate.
“I want to inform the Somali media and all Somali people in general that we will regard all al-Shabab related propaganda coverage including their terrorist acts and their ideology as punishable crimes,” Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf said.
“The Somali government is totally banning all kinds of coverage relating to the terrorist ideology and acts of intimidation by (al Shabab),” he told reporters at a news conference in the capital Mogadishu.
“Their audio clips, video clips, photos, and messages cannot be disseminated.”
Yusuf said the government has also launched cyber operations against “terrorist accounts” on social media and had disabled more than 40 on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in the past 48 hours.
“Other online sources like applications and websites which terrorists use to spread their messages will also be traced and suspended accordingly,” he added.
Yusuf insisted it was not a question of clamping down on free speech and later told AFP the measures would not affect normal news coverage about al-Shabab by journalists in Somalia.
Somalia’s recently elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has vowed an all-out war on the jihadis after a string of deadly attacks, including a 30-hour hotel siege in the capital Mogadishu in August that killed 21 people.
Fighters from the group were ousted from Mogadishu in 2011 but they continue to strike military, government and civilian targets, often with deadly consequences.