Nairobi, February 5, 2014--Authorities from the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland on Monday indefinitely banned the U.K.-based private broadcaster Universal TV in connection with its critical coverage of the president, local journalists told CPJ. The station has complied with the directive and is not broadcasting in Somaliland, according to news reports.
Local journalists told CPJ the ban stemmed from a political satire program on Saturday called "Faaliyaha Qaranka" that aired a satirical interview with an actor playing the role of President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud. The actor portrayed the president as a forgetful, elderly figure who gave family members access to administrative posts.
Somaliland Information Minister Abdullahi Mohamed held a news conference on Monday in which he announced the broadcaster's operating license would be revoked for airing "cheap propaganda" and insulting the president, according to local journalists and news reports. He also said the station had violated the ethics of journalism, the reports said.
Ahmed Abukar, owner of Universal TV, denied that the station had done anything against Somaliland or violated media ethics, and said the order was illegal, reports said. Under local law, an operating license can be revoked only by the General Prosecutor's office, local journalists said. The station's management said it would try to negotiate with authorities to get the ban lifted, according to reports.
Abdullahi told reporters that the government would file an official complaint against the owners of Universal TV with Somaliland courts "in accordance with international laws," but did not cite the laws, local journalists said.
"If Somaliland authorities believe a news outlet is airing defamatory content, they should use the appropriate legal channels to seek redress instead of silencing the broadcaster," said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. "We condemn this act of censorship and call on authorities to allow Universal TV to resume broadcasting immediately."
Authorities have routinely targeted Universal TV in the past, accusing the station of supporting opposition politicians. Authorities temporarily banned Universal TV in October 2010, according to reports.