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Authorities arrest journalist for covering presidential campaign, restrict media prior to elections

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the 17 August 2008 arrest of Mohammed Mohamud, director of Radio Daljir in Bossasso.

Around 12:30 p.m. (local time), the Puntland police chief summoned Mohammed Mohamud, widely known as "Welcome", to the Central Police Station of Bari Region after Radio Daljir was accused of covering the election campaign of Mr. Nuradin Adan Diriye, a presidential candidate in Puntland Regional State.

Gani Mohammed Haji Abdi, police general commander in Puntland, said the journalist and the radio station breached a presidential decree prohibiting coverage of presidential campaigns until 1 November.

"Locking up a journalist like our colleague Mohammed Mohamud for covering an election campaign is legally baseless and part of a widespread campaign to restrict the public's right to information," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ secretary general. "We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammed Mohamud."

Many journalists in Puntland report having been frequently threatened and censored by police and Puntland's powerful political figures. They say they have been prevented intentionally from covering certain news stories or events, such as visits of presidential candidates to certain regions and districts, and have been warned that they would face arrest if they report news deemed unwanted by the authorities or powerful politicians.

Governor of Bari Region Muse Gelle Yusuf, referring to a decree from Puntland's president, told journalists on 16 August that the media is prohibited from covering or participating in campaigns for presidential elections before 1 November.

"This decree from Puntland's president and statements from Puntland officials severely restrict the right to freedom of expression ahead of Puntland's presidential elections" said Omar Faruk Osman.

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