Popular TV Station Banned in Somalia

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Al-Shabaab accuses Universal Television of airing cartoons defaming the prophet Mohamed

Universal Television banned from operating in areas under Al-Shabaab control

A rebel Islamic group has banned television station popular in Somalia for airing cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed on Saturday.

The Al-Shabaab militant group accused Universal Television of airing cartoons defaming the prophet Mohammed and banned the station from operating in areas under their control.

"They committed a big crime against Islam and they should apologize for that soon," Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters on Monday.

"They will no longer work in the areas we control, they have slandered our prophet Mohammed," he said.

The hard-line militia also urged all Muslims to condemn the television station and consider the broadcast as a new attack against Islam.

The director of the television station dismissed Al-Shabaab's account of the broadcast and asserted that the station did not mean for the presentation of the cartoons to defame the prophet but to show people some of the acts perceived to be against Islam that had created controversy.

"Al-Shabaab's claim is not accurate, we didn't present the story the way they criticized it," Ahmed Abu Bakar, the director of Universal Television, told The Tiziano Project by phone from Minnesota, U.S.

The few Somali journalists who remain in Mogadishu face censorship, exile, or murder as rebel militants suppress reporting.

Somalia is considered one of the world's most dangerous countries for people in journalism and media.

Al-Shabaab, who is warring against the UN-backed interim government, has on several occasions banned media houses, aid agencies, and intimidated journalists for airing reports perceived to be unfavorable.

Somalia has been without a central government Since 1991 when clan militias and warlords overthrew the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre and then fought with each other, plunging the country into 20 years of anarchy and war.

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