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Mohammed Guled Sheik, who lives in an area of the capital that’s controlled by al-Shabab, listens to Radio Mogadishu on headphones for safety reasons. He said he especially likes the news and a daily show that pokes fun at al-Shabab’s actions. Radio Mogadishu also broadcasts lectures by prominent Islamic scholars who praise modernism and dramas depicting radical Islamists as villains.

“I know I’m risking my life. But I need a different point of view,” said Mr. Sheik, a father of nine who runs an electronics shop at the city’s main Bakara Market. “Radio Mogadishu is not afraid of angering Islamists and exposing their mistakes. But all the other stations are.”

Joining the fray, the U.N. is providing $1.7 million for a new radio station called Bar-kulan — “the meeting place” in Somali — which ran a test transmission last week, said David Smith, its director. Programs will include debates on Somali affairs, call-in shows hosted by an Islamic scholar, news, sports and music.

“It is an independent station. If there is a good news to report, we will report it, and if there is a bad news to report we will report it. Even if it is about al-Shabab or the government,” Mr. Smith said.

Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Gelle said he is confident the government can counter al-Shabab’s efforts.

“I have high hopes that eventually we will defeat the anti-government propaganda,” Mr. Gelle said. He said the government media strategy is based on “disseminating the truth and speaking to the conscience of those with twisted ideologies.”