New York, January 17, 2012—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the deteriorating press conditions in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland after this weekend’s detention of 21 journalists protesting a police raid on a private broadcaster.
On Saturday, armed police raided Horn Cable TV headquarters after President Ahmed Mahmoud Silyano accused the broadcaster of spreading propaganda against his administration, according to news reports. Officers told the entire staff to leave and sealed the premises without a warrant, local journalists said. Horn Cable had recently reported on a meeting in the disputed Sool region in which the Dhulbante clan announced its intention to form an autonomous state under Somalia–and not Somaliland–according to local journalists.
On Sunday morning, Somaliland presidential guards dispersed a demonstration by two dozen journalists protesting the shutdown of Horn Cable TV, according to local journalists and news reports. Officers beat journalists with the butt of their guns and detained 21 journalists at the Hargeisa Central Police Station overnight, local journalists told CPJ. Somaliland Police Chief Mohamed Saqadhi released the 21 journalists at around 2 p.m. local time the next day, news reports said.
“The Somaliland government’s claims of upholding press freedom are belied by the mass arrests of journalists and the arbitrary shuttering of broadcasters,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “These acts of intimidation seem to be part of a pattern to punish the Somaliland press for its independent reporting of political news.”
Local journalists told CPJ that Horn Cable TV returned to the air briefly Monday evening and was expected to be fully functioning soon.
Seven other journalists were arrested in the past week, CPJ research shows. Only one, journalist Ali Ismail Aare, still remains behind bars. Aare took photographs of a petrol station in the northwest town of Borama that was allegedly owned by Vice President Abdirahman Abdullahi, news reports said.