Somaliland: private TV channel closed, many independent journalists arrested
Last week 7 journalists were detained in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland. On 14 January the police stormed the headquarters of a private TV network and sealed the offices. As a result, on 15 January Somaliland journalists gathered peacefully in front of the Presidential Palace to demonstrate against the media crackdown. The police disrupted the demonstration, 22 journalists were taken into custody.
Sunday, 15 January 2012, by HRH London, based on Committee to Ptrotect Journalists, National Union of Somaliland Journalists, Somalilandpress.com and Berberanews.com information.
The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) told it is alarmed by the recent spate of arrests of independent reporters in Somaliland.
Spate of arrests
"The spate of arrests sends a chilling message to the Somaliland press and demonstrates the government's intolerance of independent and critical reporting," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "Arrest and detention should not be the knee-jerk response of the authorities to reporting. The journalists should be charged or released immediately."
Last week Somaliland authorities have arrested at least 7 independent journalists, CPJ reports. Three of them are still held in the custody without being charged.
Horn Cable TV closed
On 14 January around 18:30 the police armed with AK-47 assault rifles stormed the marketing and broadcasting offices of Horn Cable TV (HCTV) in the republic’s capital Hargeisa. They subsequently ordered the on-duty operators to vacate and immediately took them away– they remain in custody until now. The offices were sealed.
Two production studios of the television network in Haregisa, which were not in the same building of the headquarters, were also closed down.
At around 20:15 the same day the police also descended on the TV’s broadcasting system and shut down the transmitter after realising that broadcasting is still continuing. The police forcefully entered the transmitting studio and made off-air the news night. Nearly hundred Somaliland police soldiers with 7 armoured vehicles executed this action, according to Abdullahi Wayab, Editor-in-chief of Horn Cable TV, who spoke to The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in Hargeisa.
President accused TV of spreading propaganda
The closure came after the president blasted the network in his joint session of Parliament address on 14 January in which he accused the TV of spreading false information and propaganda. He said the network was taking the country into a vortex of violence by spreading incitement, hostility and feuds between opposing tribal units. Somalilandpress has learned that Abdullahi Mohamed Dahir, Presidential Spokesman, and Hirsi Ali haji Hasan, Minister for Presidency, jointly ordered the closure of the network.
Horn Cable TV journalists told NUSOJ that Somaliland authorities are furious at the reports by the TV station on a tribal meeting in Taleeh district of Sool region, in which tribal politicians and elders announced an autonomous administration. The TV is also reported that to have broadcasted views of people criticizing Somaliland administration for not preventing this meeting to take place. Somaliland claims to control Sool, Sanag and Eyn regions.
TV connected to opposition
“We roundly condemn this despicable act of barbarity against Horn Cable TV and its journalists. We denounce in particular Silanyo speech to Horn Cable TV which maligned the station,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “We express our firm support for the management and the media workers of Horn Cable TV”.
NUSOJ calls on the Somaliland authorities to respect the internationally recognised standards of freedom of expression and freedom of the press it purports to uphold, and to cease all further acts of harassments and intimidations against journalists and media houses.
Founded in 2003 in the capital, Hargeisa, HCTV is partly owned by the new disputed candidate leader of the opposition party of United Democratic People’s Party (UDUB), Jamal Ali Hussein. The government mainly targets HCTV and Waaheen newspaper, two private media who have close working relations with the opposition UDUB party.
NUSOJ calls on Somaliland top leaders, including President Silanyo, to remove police stationed at the offices of HornCable TV, release all detained journalists including those detained in Borame and Las Anod, and to allow the media to operate freely and without fear of repercussion.
Crackdown against private media
Recently the government launched a massive crackdown against private media outlets in the country – arresting as many as seven in the past week, with three still believed to be in custody without being charged. This weekend 22 more journalists were detained.
Somaliland’s journalists say that the current crackdown against media is seen as a contradicting move by a government which declared its “commitment to freedom of the press” during election campaigns in mid-2010. It was one the reason Somalilanders cast their vote for President Silanyo’s Kulmiye party. However after just over a year in the helm, it appears Kulmiye stopped tolerating private media.
The executive director of Somaliland Journalist Association (SJA) Hassan Mohamed Yusuf said it is unfortunate that the government repetitively orders for the arrest of the country’s independent media/press.
“This is a threat to democracy and human rights; it is an affront to fundamental human rights of the citizen and of the profession which is guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of Somaliland”, he told.
HRH London, based on Committee to Ptrotect Journalists, National Union of Somaliland Journalists, Somalilandpress.com and Berberanews.com information.