Three private radio stations in Somalia's northern Puntland region have been ordered shut, prompting an angry reaction from journalists claiming the local government was muzzling press freedom, officials said Thursday.
Mohamoud Aideed Dirir, information minister of the semi-autonomous state, said the three stations had "violated Puntland's constitution and media laws" for re-broadcasting programmes from other stations.
"The ministry therefore closes the offices of the Radio Daljir, One Nation and Codka Nabadda Radio," he said.
The stations are accused of repeating programmes broadcast on three other radio stations banned in February for allegedly violating media laws.
Puntland's parliament is considering a draft media law which journalists have criticised as a move to limit press freedom.
Somalia's journalist union official Burhan Ahmed Dahir condemned the closures.
"The radio stations were registered under the information ministry and have the right to go into partnership agreements with other organisation's, there is no law prohibiting them to do that," said Dahir.
"We continue our struggle for press freedom," he added.
Somalia's journalists have suffered a string of attacks, including assassinations or bomb blasts often blamed on Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents. Other murders are also believed to be linked to struggles within the multiple factions in power.
The war-ravaged nation is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work, with at least 18 media workers killed killed last year. Three have been murdered in 2013.
Last week, the first conviction was made for the killing of a journalist, when a court in the Somali capital Mogadishu sentenced a man to death for the murder of radio reporter Hassan Yusuf Absuge in September 2012.
Somalia has been without effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of Siad Barre that sparked two decades of civil war.