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NUSOJ demands end to assaults on journalist, media freedoms in Somaliland

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) strongly condemns the ongoing brutalities against independent journalists in Somaliland.

Journalist Mohamed Abdi Kahin, nicknamed "Boosh", who works for the online news website Ramaasnews and the privately-owned television station Royal TV, was brutally beaten on 27 October 2011 by Somaliland police in the city of Hargeisa after the police accused him of taking pictures of "women protesting."

On 19 September, police in Hargeisa beat up and briefly detained Mustafe Sheik Omar Ghedi, the editor of the "Saxafi" newspaper, after they saw him taking pictures of poor people who were resisting a forced eviction by the Somaliland Local Government in Goljano village.

"We demand that the authorities in Somaliland immediately stop this uncalled for brutality and repression against journalists and that action be taken immediately to punish those who beat up and brutalise journalists," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. The union expressed concern over the apparent increased intolerance of freedom of expression which has resulted in ordinary citizens being intimidated for airing their views via the media.

Jama Elmi Said, an ordinary citizen who published an article in the "Waheen" newspaper in September, was beaten by police officers in Hargeisa's main market on 12 October. He was victimised for expressing his views via the media.

In another development, several members of the Somaliland House of Representatives have publicly announced that they have prepared a draft media bill that they intend to introduce in the House of Representatives in a bid "to control the unethical and irresponsible print media of Somaliland," according to one of the members who spoke to the media.

The journalists' community in Somaliland has strongly opposed this bill due to a lack of consultation with media stakeholders and journalists. Its contents remain unknown, but the bill is potentially dangerous to media freedom. The Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) has expressed its opposition to the proposed bill and warned members of the House of Representatives against introducing it.

"We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Somaliland in making sure this bill is not introduced in the House of Representatives because there has been no consultation with media stakeholders and there are serious doubts if it meets international standards of freedom of expression," added Osman.

In the past six months, Somaliland has experienced recurring attacks on journalists, which have included beatings, arbitrary arrests and criminal charges of defamation and slander perpetrated by senior government officials, including ministers.

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