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TV crew arrested by order of presidential official; ministry bans "unauthorised" conferences, lectures and public events

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern about press freedom in Somalia after a presidential spokesman ordered the arrest of a TV crew and the authorities in Puntland, a stronghold of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, and banned journalists from holding professional meetings without permission.

"Security problems and the risk of regional destabilisation must not be used as an excuse to settle scores," the worldwide press freeedom organisation said. "The president's mission is to lead his country towards democracy, but the behaviour of his aides and supporters continues to undermine the rights of journalists to operate freely. Keeping public order means that a TV crew illegally arrested must be freed and the repressive ban in Puntland lifted."

Abdulkadir Ashir "Nadara," head of the privately-owned TV station Universal TV, journalist Bashir Dirie Nalei and cameraman Hamud Mohammed Osman were arrested on 8 April 2007 at Mogadishu airport and have been held since then, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), a partner organisation of Reporters Without Borders. The three journalists had covered a press conference by the president, during which "Nadara" had asked him about alleged favouritism in his choice of officials. An angry presidential spokesman called the question "the language of terrorists" and the three journalists were arrested by soldiers.

In addition, the Puntland information, telecommunications, culture and tourism ministry on 28 March banned all unauthorised conferences, lectures and public events about media matters, as well as the creation of media associations. A copy of the order was sent to all government ministries, local and foreign NGOs, UN agencies and the presidential palace. Before being elected Somali president by the country's transitional parliament in October 2004, President Yusuf was president of Puntland, whose authorities are still loyal to him.

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