Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter today to the president of the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Puntland requesting an explanation for radio Horseed Media's closure.
The radio station has been banned from broadcasting since 6 October and access to its website is blocked in some of the region's cities. It is clear from the lack of transparency surrounding the ban, which the police notified to the station, that it is politically motivated and was not issued by any court.
The regional police chief, Col. Osman Afdalow, has acknowledged giving the radio station the closure order, which took the form of an unsigned and unstamped letter. Normally the information ministry and the president’s office take such a decision, but they claim to know nothing.
The only reason cited for the closure is an accusation of "spreading false news" with aim of "destabilizing peace and security in Puntland" that seems to have been prompted by a series of broadcasts critical of the government last month.
The station had suggested the President Abdirhaman Farole might want to delay the January 2013 elections for a year. It also covered some protests. President Farole responded at the time that he would not allow his policies to be threatened by "ousted politicians and so-called websites and media."
Abdiwali Hassan Gooni, the coordinator of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), a Reporters Without Borders partner organization, called on Puntland's government today to "stop harassing and threatening journalists in the region."
Gooni added: "More than 50 journalists have fled in Puntland since 2009, when President Farole elected. They fear for their lives because of the threats from Farole's administration."
Somalia is Africa's deadliest country for the media. Fifteen journalists have been killed in connection with their work so far this year, seven during September alone. Somalia is ranked 164th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
President Abdirahman Farole
Executive Head of State of Puntland
Paris, 15 October 2012
Dear President Farole,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, asks you to do everything possible to ensure that radio Horseed Media is reopened.
The police closed Horseed Media on 6 October and access to its website has been blocked in Garowe. The police said they received the order to close the radio station from the information minister, who says he knows nothing about the subject.
According to our information, Col. Osman Afdalow, the head of the regional police, gave Horseed Media's managers an unsigned letter that provided no concrete explanation of the reasons for closing it down. Reporters Without Borders hopes that your office will be able to shed light on the origin of the closure order and, in the absence of judicial grounds, authorise the reopening of the radio station.
Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about your comments of 24 September threatening opposition journalists and likening them to "terrorists" and "pirates."
These words had a considerable impact amid all the dangers to which Puntland's media are currently exposed and could be seen as giving carte blanche to those who censor the media and threaten and attack journalists. Far from representing a danger for your government, freedom of information is both an essential element in a country's development and a legal obligation as regards the international community.
Reporters Without Borders urges you to improve your relations with the media by guaranteeing journalists the professional freedom that is their right and by assuring them that their personal safety will never be endangered with impunity. The reopening of Horseed Media would be seen as a clear signal of your good intentions in this respect.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to this request.
Reporters Without Borders director-general