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Authorities harass private media outlets reporting on Somaliland

A anchorman reads the news on Somaliland TV station in a ramshackle studio, Hargeisa, Somaliland, 1 December 2003
A anchorman reads the news on Somaliland TV station in a ramshackle studio, Hargeisa, Somaliland, 1 December 2003

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 29 May 2018.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities in Somalia's breakaway northwestern region of Somaliland to stop harassing privately-owned media outlets that are covering its territorial dispute with its eastern neighbour, Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region. Two TV channels have been closed and several journalists have been arrested.

The Somaliland government announced in a communiqué today that the two TV channels, SBS and SOMNews, were banned from broadcasting for being "involved in political campaigns" and for not maintaining "the neutrality they are supposed to observe" in their coverage of protests in Las Anod, the capital of the disputed Sool region in the southeastern part of Somaliland.

SBS reporter Mohamed Ahmed Jama Bidhanshe was arrested yesterday while covering one of the protest marches in Las Anod against the Somaliland government.

In recent months, the disputed Sool border region has seen armed clashes with heavy weapons between Somaliland - which proclaimed its independence from Somalia in 1991 but is not recognized by the international community - and Puntland, an autonomous part of the Somali state. The resumption of fighting on the border has increased the pressure on journalists.

Bidhanshe's arrest was preceded on 27 May by that of Bulsho TV journalist Abdirahman Keyse Tungub, who had just done a report in Las Anod about the local population's exasperation with the intensification of the fighting in recent days. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemned Tungub's arrest by the Somaliland's security forces as "a ploy to intimidate the local journalists."

"We condemn the closure of privately-owned TV stations and we call for the immediate release of these two journalists, who were just doing their job," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk. "The already deteriorated security environment for journalists covering this conflict has been compounded in recent weeks by growing, unjustified harassment by the Somaliland authorities. The arbitrary arrests and closures must stop and the freedom to inform must be guaranteed."

Bidhanshe was the third journalist to be arrested in the space of two weeks for reporting criticism of the Somaliland authorities. Freelance journalist Adam Jama Oogle was arrested at his home on 14 May after reporting in a Facebook post that the Sool region's inhabitants supported Somali unity. He was finally freed after being held for nine days without charge.

Somalia is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index, one place lower than last year.

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