Puntland editor freed, newspaper remains suspended

New York, July 14, 2005—Editor Abdi Farah Nur has been released after more than two weeks of imprisonment in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, but his newspaper remains under government suspension and Farah fears for his safety, sources told the Committee to Protect Journalists today.

Farah was freed on July 5, but word of his status did not surface until today. Police forces in Garowe arrested Farah on June 19 after he tried to resume publication of his independent newspaper, Shacab (Voice of the People), which Puntland authorities had ordered suspended in May.

The government ordered Shacab suspended on May 5 for an undetermined period for publishing unspecified articles that it claimed could lead to unrest. A presidential decree issued after a cabinet meeting cited the government’s constitutional responsibility to uphold the unity of Puntland. Shacab General Manager Abdirahman Abdulle told CPJ in June that the newspaper’s management tried to resume publication after failing to persuade authorities to lift the suspension order. The paper published just one issue before Farah’s arrest forced it to shut down again.

The newspaper faced government action earlier this year as well. In April, Farah and reporter Abdirashid Qoransey were detained, tried, and acquitted on charges of incitement and insulting the president. Those charges were based on an April article suggesting that citizens with complaints about the Puntland government contact their representatives in Parliament; and a reader’s letter criticizing authorities, according to Farah.

“We welcome the release of our colleague Abdi Farah Nur, but he should never have been jailed in the first place,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, and Puntland authorities to ensure the security of Abdi Farah Nur, to lift the ban on Shacab and to ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear of reprisal.”