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Authorities order expulsion of journalists seeking protection from violence

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - NUSOJ calls on Somaliland authorities to stop forcing out Somali journalists who fled from the mayhem and violence in Mogadishu - from targeted attacks on journalists and media in particular - and who sought protection in Somaliland because they were at risk of suffering grave human rights violations.

On 4 December 2007, the Somaliland police chief, General Mohammed Saqadhi Dubad, and the head of Somaliland's Criminal Investigations Department, General Ahmed Ali Shabel, visited a journalists' safe house in Hargeisa and ordered the journalists sheltered there to leave Somaliland within 24 hours. General Dubad justified the order by alleging that the journalists were endangering the "security and stability of Somaliland". The police chief added that they will take the journalists to court if they failed to obey the expulsion order.

"We strongly protest this harsh order, which blatantly violates international human rights principles," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "It is outrageous to say that these journalists, who sought protection, are endangering Somaliland's security and stability. We attest that they have not done nor do they intend to do anything that could endanger the security and stability of Somaliland".

The order is directed against 24 journalists who fled from Mogadishu as they were at risk of being killed or mistreated. NUSOJ, in collaboration with Somaliland Journalists Association, established a safe house for most of these journalists. Other, ordinary citizens who also fled Mogadishu will not be affected by this order.

"This order clearly states that it is only directed against journalists because of their professional work, and we believe that it was made to appease outsiders," said Faruk. "Ordering journalists to leave is a deliberate attack on freedom of the press. The expulsion and intimidation of journalists in Somaliland is intolerable and raises legitimate concerns about the Somaliland's commitment to a free press and democratic values."

This shocking order comes as an international mission by Amnesty International (AI), including a delegation from East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, visits Hargeisa.

Following efforts made by Somaliland journalists, Somaliland Human Rights Activists and the AI mission, the journalists were given five more days to leave. NUSOJ sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated that it seems impossible to overturn the order as it came from senior Somaliland leaders.

"The order is a shameful act that contradicts the democracy that Somaliland proclaims to uphold; the authorities must allow journalists to enter without restriction, to stay freely and to report without fear," said Faruk.

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