Radio journalist jailed for reports on Puntland prison

New York, September 27, 2005—Authorities in the Puntland city of Bossasso arrested an STN radio editor Monday in connection with his reporting on prison conditions, according to the Somali journalists union NUSOJ and a local source. Awale Jama Salad is being detained without charge for the second time in recent months.

The arrest stems from Awale Jama’s reports in July on his previous imprisonment, according to NUSOJ and the local source. Those reports, broadcast on STN and picked up by some local newspapers, alleged that officials at Bossasso prison were taking bribes to free prisoners, and that conditions in the jail were so bad they were causing the spread of disease. Authorities are accusing Awale Jama of defamation and publishing false information, although he has not been officially charged, NUSOJ said.

“By punishing this journalist for his firsthand reports, Puntland authorities send a clear signal that they want to keep secret what is going on in their prisons,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Awale Jama Salad has every right to tell the public about prison conditions in Puntland. He should be freed right away and without conditions.”

Awale Jama was jailed in Bossasso central prison for nearly two weeks in July, along with Sheekh Aduun, director of the local radio affiliate of the private STN network, and STN reporter Mohamed Ilke Ase. Local sources told CPJ that their imprisonment stemmed from the radio station’s reporting on the mayoral campaign in Bossasso. They were later freed without charge.

In May, the Puntland government banned the weekly newspaper Shacab following a campaign of harassment. When editor Abdi Farah Nur tried to defy the ban in June, he was imprisoned for more than two weeks without charge. He fled the country in fear for his security and Shacab remains closed.