New York, September 12, 2011–Authorities in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland are obstructing independent journalists from covering government politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Four reporters have been harassed and arrested while on assignment since early September.
“Somaliland authorities must end this crackdown on independent reporting,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “The government must stop harassing journalists and uphold its campaign pledge made last year to support press freedom.”
On Saturday, officers of Somaliland police Special Protection Unit in the capital, Hargeisa, prevented journalists with the private press from covering the swearing-in ceremony of the new interior minister, Mohamed Nur, local reports said. When reporter Saleban Abdi Ali of the independent weekly Waheen began to protest, officers beat him with the butt of their guns and detained him at the Hargeisa Central Police Station for roughly four hours, local journalists said. Ali sustained light injuries.
On September 5, in Burao, Somaliland’s second largest city, police arrested Waheen reporter Ahmed Muse and detained him for a week without charge, local journalists said. Muse’s colleagues said he was arrested because of a story he wrote on a purported dispute between Yasin Mohamed, the Toghdeer region governor, and regional officials in the sports ministry. Police also questioned reporter Mahad Abdullahi on September 5 over a similar report published in Ogaal, a Hargeisa-based weekly, according to local reports. Authorities released Muse on bail from Burao prison on Sunday. Abdullahi was released after several hours.
Also on September 5, police detained Waheen reporter Ali Ismail in Borama town, northern Somaliland, for several hours and released him without charge, local journalists said. Ismail had attempted to investigate reports of the local government physically removing the office doors of businesses who failed pay taxes.
Waheen has been targeted by the government before. In January, Somaliland authorities sentenced Waheen editor Mohamud Abdi Jama without bail for defamation and “spreading false news” in a 2010 story alleging public corruption. Jama was granted a presidential pardon the following month. Local journalists told CPJ they suspected the arrest was an attempt to intimidate the newspaper.