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SBC journalist detained for 13 hours in Buhodle; Bossasso and Garowe journalists threatened over coverage

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - NUSOJ is profoundly concerned about the ongoing harassment and intimidation of journalists and media executives in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in north-eastern Somalia.

On 25 May 2008, the governor of Eyn region in Puntland ordered the arrest of journalist Ali Osman of the Bossasso-based Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) in Buhodle District. The journalist, who was detained 13 hours at the Buhodle police station, was taken into custody for a news report that was aired by SBC. The regional administration said that the journalist had reported that Somaliland flags were raised in the Buhodle square. SBC Director Mowlid Haji Abdi confirmed the arrest of Ali Osman but denied the accusations of the Eyn regional administration.

Amid the intensifying political and security crisis in Puntland, a number of journalists and media owners in Bossasso and Garowe have received intimidating telephone calls. For security reasons, these journalists asked NUSOJ not to mention their names. Some journalists were also threatened face-to-face and ordered not to talk about certain topics, such as contention among cabinet members, increasing insecurity and the upcoming Puntland elections. Journalists, particularly radio reporters, faced harassment by the authorities and tribal leaders for their reporting on the private affairs of Puntland officials and on factional politics.

"Political crises make media in Puntland vulnerable to political interference and unjustifiable pressure," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We denounce these forms of intimidation that are a major threat to the independent work of media professionals in Puntland."

Journalists who spoke to NUSOJ anonymously said that privately-owned media have become the main target of political intimidation. This situation discourages local journalists from reporting facts, in particular those related to competition between politicians. Puntland officials accuse some journalists of reporting unfounded stories, or try to use journalists to conduct their battles through the media. Reliable sources told NUSOJ that media outlets in Puntland were already exercising self-censorship.

"We demand Puntland leaders end their battle against media professionals and hold their officials responsible for their attacks against the media," Faruk added.

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