Puntland newspaper damaged in arson attack

New York, June 29, 2007—Three rooms in the headquartersof Shacab, an independent newspaper in northeast Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, were damaged Wednesday night after assailants threw gasoline-fueled bombs, according to local news reports and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSJ). One man was arrested after being identified by a security guard and other eyewitnesses, but the suspect was forcibly removed from prison today by agents believed to be working for the region’s government, those sources said.

Shacab Editor Abdi Farah Nur told CPJ he received threats at the newspaper’s office in Garowe from two security agents on Thursday. The agents, armed with Kalashnikovs, told Farah he would be “gone” if he were responsible for the arrest of the arson suspect, Abdirashid Qoransey, the editor said. Qoransey is a former Shacab reporter.

Shacab has not been able to print for two months due to a lack of paper, but had recently received a shipment that could have allowed it to resume publication, Farah said. Shacab, which most recently published as a weekly, is known for its critical reporting and has been a target of official harassment in the past. A printing press was damaged in this week’s attack.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the continuing harassment and intimidation of Abdi Farah Nur and his staff,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.  “Authorities in Puntland should find the perpetrators of the Shacab attack and put them on trial.”
Somalia, including Puntland, is the ninth most dangerous nation for the press.  Last December, CPJ reported the two-week detention of radio correspondent Abdi Aziz Guled in the northeastern Puntland city of Bossasso. In March this year, Puntland authorities issued a decree prohibiting activities of media groups without prior consent of the government.