Somaliland obstructs UK satellite station

New York, October 7, 2010–Authorities in Somaliland should immediately lift a suspension order imposed against the UK-based satellite broadcaster Universal TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The order bars the station’s correspondents from reporting in the breakaway republic in northern Somalia, Khadar Mahamed, Universal TV senior newscaster and producer, told CPJ.

“This abrupt order tarnishes Somaliland’s press freedom record,” said CPJ’s East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on Somaliland authorities to lift the suspension immediately.”

Information Minister Abdullahi Osman told CPJ that he imposed the indefinite suspension in a letter to the station. Although the minister’s official statement accused the station of bias, Osman told CPJ there was no specific issue that led to the suspension. Still, local journalists noted the suspension came shortly after Universal TV aired interviews and a debate program concerning the separatist Sool, Sanag and Cayn militia based along the borders of Somaliland.

Mahamed said Universal TV management is in talks with Somaliland authorities over the suspension.

Established in 2005, Universal TV covers news for the Somali diaspora with correspondents based in places including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya. In June, hard-line Islamist rebels called for the assassination of former Universal correspondent Abdulahi Ibrahim Dasar after he covered a South African newspaper’s publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, according to CPJ research.

Somaliland, a self-declared republic since 1991, is not internationally recognized. Somaliland held elections in June during which minor incidents of media harassment were reported, according to CPJ research. Former opposition leader Mohamed Silyano won the presidential election, defeating outgoing president Dahir Riyale.