Puntland authorities ban three radio stations

Nairobi, March 18, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by a recent directive from authorities in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region banning local broadcasters from airing content produced outside the region.

In a notice issued March 13, Information Minister Mohamoud Aideed banned reproduction of any programs or materials produced by non-Puntland media, singling out three radio stations that operate outside the region, according to local journalists. “No radio station can reproduce or air any materials and programs of a media station that is not licensed under the ministry, such as Radio Ergo, Radio Bar-Kulan, and Radio Hirad,” the memo read.

Nairobi-based Radio Ergo and Radio Bar-Kulan are funded by the Danish organization International Media Support and the United Nations, respectively. Radio Hirad is based in Hargeisa, in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland, and receives support from the Dutch press organization Free Press Unlimited, according to CPJ research.

Local journalists say the directive may be due to the fact that two of the stations, Radio Bar-Kulan and Radio Hirad, occasionally air views of opposition politicians and, having no physical presence in the region, are able to report freely without fear of reprisal. They said it’s not clear why Radio Ergo is being targeted.

“This order appears to be designed to censor critical reporting in Puntland ahead of proposed May elections,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on authorities to reverse this directive immediately.”

According to local journalists, most radio stations are ignoring the ban until they receive further explanation. A network of 13 local stations issued a statement saying they will continue to air Radio Ergo broadcasts until they receive official clarification.

CPJ’s repeated calls to the Information Ministry went unanswered.

Puntland authorities shuttered independent broadcaster Horseed FM in October last year in the port town of Bossasso, according to CPJ research. The station remains off air. Authorities also temporarily suspended another radio station, Codka Nabadda, in March 2012 but re-opened the station after the owner negotiated with authorities, local journalists told CPJ.