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Thirty-one IFEX members and 25 other groups call on the President of Puntland to respect freedom of expression

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 29 October 2010 - Over 50 free expression groups and journalists' unions wrote an open letter to President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole urging him to respect freedom of expression:

Abdirahman Mohamed Farole
President, Puntland State of Somalia
Puntland Presidency, Garowe,
Nugaal Region, Somalia

29 October 2010

Dear President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole,

We, the undersigned journalists and freedom of expression organisations, express to you and your administration our deepest concern at the worsening media freedom situation in the north-eastern regions of Somalia that are controlled by Puntland.

Since you assumed the office of Puntland President on 11 January 2009, journalists have been arrested, physically assaulted, suspended, censored and even killed, and the operations of news media organisations have been threatened, closed or restricted.

In June 2010 the information ministry of Puntland gave directives to independent media houses and issued a statement indicating that all independent radio and television stations and websites in Puntland would henceforth be under the ministry's authority.

We wish to put on record that since you took office, the freedom of expression situation in Puntland has continued to deteriorate. At the peak of a series of intimidations and scrutiny of journalists, Puntland authorities suspended three journalists working for Voice of America (VOA). To date, no credible and acceptable justification for those actions has been presented by your administration, so it can only be assumed that these journalists were unfairly suspended as a result of their reporting.

In addition to unjust suspensions, journalists are also being physically attacked. On 17 November 2009, Mohamed Yasin Isak was allegedly wounded by soldiers affiliated with Puntland police while working as a reporter for VOA in Galkayo. A month later, Hassan Mohamed Jama of Radio Galkayo escaped assassination when he was fired upon by Puntland police in Galkayo. Journalist Abdullahi Omar Gedi who worked as a newscaster and reporter for Radio Daljir, was stabbed to death in the Galkayo District of Mudug region on 31 August 2010. To date, no one has been arrested or persecuted for these crimes. Furthermore, Ahmed Ibrahim Nor, a correspondent for Radio SIMBA, was beaten inside the high court in Bosaso by the chief security officer of the court and other guards during the hearing of a case on 24 February 2010 for simply recording the proceedings. This violation was committed in broad daylight before the very custodians of the justice system.

The hostile relations between the media and Puntland administration were further aggravated by the ban on news organisations and journalists from interviewing rebels fighting the administration. On 15 August 2010 the Puntland Information Minister Abdihakin Ahmed Guled prohibited news organisations and journalists from interviewing the rebels whose armed forces are fighting Puntland, and he threatened that any journalist or media house failing to obey his order will face "severe punishment". The minister also warned that Puntland security forces will take "appropriate action" against any news media organisation that reports on the rebels. This type of "appropriate action" by the security forces was already being employed before this statement was made by the minister.

On 14 August 2010, Puntland authorities handed down a six-year jail term to Abdifatah Jama Mire, Director of Horseed Media, which is the harshest punishment given to a journalist in recent times in Puntland. The arrest of Mire came after the radio station conducted an interview on 13 August 2010 of the rebel leader. Mire lodged an appeal, but the court has yet to hear the case more than a month later. Even the basic rights he is entitled to under international conventions such as the right to fair trial and access to defence lawyers were violated.

Yusuf Ali Adan, a reporter for the news website http://www.somalifans.net , was abducted in June 2010 by soldiers believed to be associated with Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) in Bosasso. Adan has been kept in secret detention since that time. The motive for his arrest has not been officially stated. However, it is widely believed that it was Adan's critical articles about the Puntland Administration that led to his arrest. The location of the reporter has still not been disclosed.

In light of this situation facing journalists and media organisations in Puntland, we urge you to take action in the following areas:

• Stop attacks against journalists and media houses by instructing your ministers, police forces and security agents to end brutal and violent acts against journalists and media outlets;

• Free Abdifatah Jama Mire immediately and unconditionally. He is the victim of abuse of executive power by your officers;

• Instruct Puntland security agents to free Yusuf Ali Adan, state the reason for his detention and give him access to a fair trial including an independent legal defence;

• Speedily set up a transparent and cooperative framework to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of crimes committed against journalists. Without such action, impunity will flourish with the perceived endorsement of your administration;

• Stop applying the Somali penal code and the terrorism law of Puntland to innocent journalists and media outlets and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

Sincerely,

National Union of Somali Journalists
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
ARTICLE 19
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Comité por la Libre Expresión - C-Libre
Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Institute of Mass Information
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
Maharat Foundation
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
National Press Association
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
Public Association "Journalists"
Reporters Without Borders
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
West African Journalists Association

Non-IFEX members signatories:

Argentinean Federation of Press Workers
Association des Journalistes du Burkina (AJB)
Association des Journalistes Djiboutiens (AJD)
Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú (ANP) - National Association of Journalists of Peru
Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ)
Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA)
Federation of Journalists of Latin America and the Caribbean (FEPALC)
Gambia Press Union (GPU)
National Federation of Journalists of Brazil (Federaçao Nacional do Jornalistas - FENAJ)
National Journalists Union of Ethiopia (ENJU)
National Syndicate of Journalists of Mozambique
National Union of Journalists of United Kingdom and Ireland (NUJ)
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Sudanese Journalists Union (SJU)
Syndicat des Journalistes Mauritaniens (SJM)
Syndicat des Professionnels de l'Information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS)
Syndicat national des journalistes – France (SNJ)
Syndicat National des Journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC)
Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT)
Syndicat National des Professionnels de la Presse - Republique democratique du Congo (SNPP)
Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ)
Uganda Journalists Union (UJU)
Union Burundaise des Journalistes (UBJ)
Union des Syndicats des Professionnels de la Presse d'Afrique Centrale (USYPAC)
Union Nationale De La Presse Du Congo (UNPC)

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