Following the closure of an independent television network and the arrest of another journalist, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the continued campaign against independent journalism in Puntland State of Somalia, and calls on Puntland authorities to change course.
Somali Television Network (STN) station, operating from Garowe, the regional administrative capital of Puntland was shut down this evening by Puntland police while journalist Abdifatah Muse alias Jiib who is working for STN TV was also arrested. Jiib was arrested because he recorded a vox pop from members of the public about an address the Puntland president Said Abdullahi Deni made on the evening of February 21, 2021.
“These are dangerous days for journalism in Puntland,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “It doesn’t fool anybody as this repressive campaign is a warning to Puntland journalists and to the people in particular to toe the line in the run-up to Somalia elections both for Federal Parliament and for President in the coming weeks. This cannot continue and Puntland authorities must change course, if not it will be a disaster for democratisation efforts currently being undertaken in Puntland”.
Another journalist, Ahmed Botan Arab who was arrested for similar reasons on 22 February 2021 was released yesterday evening. While he was released without charges, the authorities warned him not to broadcast similar contents of interviews with members of the public.
Unfortunately, these incidents are not isolated and represent a sustained assault on media freedom and the public’ right to receive and impart opinion through media of their choice.
Independent Journalist Kilwe Adan Farah is now serving his 60th day in detention in Garowe after he was arrested by the Puntland secret services (PISA) on 27 December 2020. Initially he was kept for more than two weeks in incommunicado detention.
NUSOJ calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Abdifatah Muse and Kilwe Adan Farah, and for STN TV to be allowed to resume its operations.
“Puntland has been using its security apparatus to silence any critical voices and journalists continue to be victims of this repressive tactic,” declared Osman. “Numerous attacks on journalists, news media organisations and denial of access to information had already created a dangerous climate for journalists who will be under further pressures in the run-up to national elections. Puntland must allow journalists and media houses to work independently without fear of reprisals.”
“We particularly call on Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni to end these politically motivated attacks and allow journalists to work freely and independently so they can perform their duties without undue interference from the authorities,” he stressed while adding that “journalists and the general population of Puntland have a right to protection under the law and the regional administration has a duty to ensure that basic rights are enjoyed as set out in state and federal laws”.