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Puntland TV station closed for not airing live presidential speech

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) strongly protests the Puntland State of Somalia's closure of a private television station in Garowe.

In an official letter issued on Saturday, 21 September, the Puntland Minister of Information, Communications, Culture and Heritage Ahmed Sheikh Jama Yusuf announced the closure of Universal TV in Puntland for an indefinite period. The TV station, which is based in London, was closed down due to its lack of live coverage of a speech by the Puntland President at the New Deal Conference in Brussels, Belgium, on 16 September.

Minister Jama accused Universal TV of committing the following "transgressions": "antagonism" and "hostility" against Puntland, as well as violating the "ethical values of journalism". The closure was executed on Saturday from 8 am local time. Police and security agents ordered the station to cease broadcasting immediately, NUSOJ has learned.

The minister said in his letter that people of Puntland complained to him about Universal TV, and because of that he acted on it. He further said that the owners of Universal TV made an agreement with the federal government so that the owners of Universal TV could receive "cheap food" from the government.

Nuh Muse Birjeb, head of Universal TV in Puntland, strongly refused these accusations saying its was not the fault of the TV station not to cover the live coverage of Puntland President.

“We condemn this arbitrary act of censorship and call on Puntland to allow Universal TV to resume its operations in Puntland and to conduct its broadcasting from Puntland without further hindrance,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “The Puntland authority has once again demonstrated its contempt for press freedom”.

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