Somali government has banned journalists from using the word al-Shabab to refer to the armed group fighting the government and instead ordered them to refer to the group as “the group that massacres the Somali people”.
Speaking to journalists in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, country’s intelligence chief Abdirahman Mohamud Turyare said the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group deserves to be called the name.
We see this as a weakness from the apostate government. No one has a right to insult us. Anyone who calls us names we will respond appropriately
“The name al-shabab means ‘The Youth’ and that is a good name. We will not allow that good name to be tarnished,” Turyare said.
“The enemy we are fighting is called ‘UGUS’ – the acrnonym for the phrase in Somali. That is their official name.”
“You all know what they do. What they do is massacre people,” Turyare added.
Somali media groups said on Monday that they were greatly concerned by the government’s move.
“Somalia is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work and the government’s decision further puts our lives in greater risk.” Hassan Ali Geesey, chairman of Somali Independent Media Houses Association (SIMHA), told Al Jazeera.
“We have to be neutral. We are independent journalists. We cannot work like state media. Even the international media calls them al-Shabab. If the government doesn’t go back on this decision many journalists will stop working,” Geesey said.
Meanwhile, al-Shabab said they would not tolerate journalists calling them names and taking side in their fight with the UN-backed Somali government.
“We see this as a weakness from the apostate government. No one has a right to insult us. Anyone who calls us names we will respond appropriately,” an al-Shabab spokesman told Al Jazeera.
Somalia is the deadliest country in Africa for journalist to operate, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists which in 2014 ranked Somalia as the third most dangerous place for journalists.
Last Thursday unidentified gunmen shot dead journalist Daud Ali Omar and his wife at his home in the south-central town of Baidoa.
Omar was a news producer at the pro-government privately-owned Radio Baidoa station. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Since 1992, 56 journalists have been killed in the horn of Africa country.
Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa