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Two radio journalists arrested, cable television station banned

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - On 17 July 2009, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) unreservedly condemned the arrest of two radio journalists and expressed deep concern at the deteriorating press freedom situation in Somaliland, particularly the shrinking liberty for critical voices and independent journalism.

Journalists Mohamed Osman Mire, widely known as "Siyad", and Ahmed Suleyman Dhuhul, director and news editor of Horyaal Radio respectively, were arrested at 15:40 (local time) on 13 July by Somaliland police at the office of the radio station in Hargeisa. The two journalists are being held at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters. The police showed the two journalists the arrest warrant and ordered them to go with them, according to journalists in Somaliland.

"We condemn this climate of intimidation and fear that reigns over journalists in Somaliland. The detention of Mohamed Osman Mire and Ahmed Suleyman Dhuhul is illegitimate and a strong sign of the suppression of independent journalism for political reasons," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary-General.

Somaliland authorities arrested the two Horyaal Radio journalists after the station aired, on the evening of 10 July, a closed doors meeting between Somaliland President Dahir Rayale Kahin and 25 elders from Gabiley town, which reportedly ended in disagreement, according to trustworthy sources in Somaliland.

"These acts of intimidation are intolerable and Somaliland authorities must immediately grant the two journalists their freedom and put an end to other actions of bullying against journalists and news media houses," Omar Faruk Osman added.

On 15 July, Judge Sheik Hussein Warfa Sigad, of the Hargeisa Appeals Court, issued a judgment banning Horn CABLE TV. This decision reversed a verdict by the Hargeisa Regional Court, which had rejected the Somaliland Attorney-General's request that Horn CABLE TV be banned for "inciting violence" that has existed in Eel-bardale town and "spreading false information".

"We deplore the banning of Horn CABLE TV because it is a politically motivated court decision. It is widely believed that President Rayale and some of his cabinet members influenced the decision of the appeals court. Somaliland must allow Horn CABLE TV to resume its operations immediately and unconditionally," Omar Faruk Osman declared.

Somaliland authorities have been imposing increasing restrictions on independent journalists working for privately-owned print and broadcast media in Somaliland by denying them access to information held by the government. The authorities have also used other intimidation tactics, such as barring critical journalists from covering events attended by Somaliland officials, and refusing to provide advertisements to critical media outlets.

NUSOJ stands in solidarity with journalists and the media in Somaliland and urges Somaliland authorities to immediately take action to end these serious aggressions against media professionals, which, if they continue, will only make worse the ongoing grave violations.

NUSOJ received information on at least four cases of intimidated journalists. Due to these journalists' fear of reprisals, NUSOJ could not publicise the cases.
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