Nairobi, November 20, 2015—Authorities in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland arrested Jama Yusuf Deperani, a reporter and presenter with Somali Channel TV, on Thursday, according to one of his colleagues and a member of the Media Association of Puntland, who both spoke to CPJ.
Police summoned Jama to their offices in the administrative capital, Garowe, and arrested him without disclosing any charges against him, Somali Channel TV East Africa Bureau Chief Abdirizak Cirro told CPJ. He is currently being held at the central police station in Garowe, Abdirizak said. Colleagues of Jama at Somali Channel TV called the information minister and police after his arrest.
“We condemn the arbitrary arrest of Jama Yusuf Deperani, one of the few remaining critical voices within the region, and call for his immediate release,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “This kind of harassment could induce other Puntland-based journalists to censor their reporting for fear of similar treatment.”
The arrest comes after Somali Channel TV, a privately owned broadcaster based in London, received a letter from the Puntland information ministry dated November 10, ordering the temporary suspension of Jama from his journalistic duties, according to a copy of the letter in CPJ’s possession. The letter did not provide a reason for the suspension. Jama continued working and this may be the reason behind his arrest, according to news reports.
The ministry has no authority to order the suspension of a journalist working for a privately owned media outlet, Abdirizak told CPJ.
Repeated calls by CPJ to the information minister, Mohamoud Hassan, were left unanswered.
Jama presented and produced a critical talk show consisting of half-hour interviews with politicians and other high-profile figures, Abdirizak said. Jama interviewed the information minister four days before the ministry issued the letter ordering his suspension, Faisal Khaliif, from the Media Association of Puntland, an independent Puntland-based press freedom organization, and local journalists Mohamed Omer and Mohamed Garane, told CPJ. The journalists said the interview was critical of the current administration.
This is not the first time the information ministry has issued arbitrary orders to try to censor the Puntland independent press, CPJ research shows. In another recent example, on October 29, the information ministry issued a letter banning local stations from airing programs produced by the U.S.-government funded Voice of America Somali Service for “damaging the dignity of the Puntland State,” according to local journalists and news reports. Puntland authorities rescinded the directive two days later after negotiations with the broadcaster, local journalists, including Sahra Abdi Ahmed, from Voice of America, told CPJ.