Somalia: Somaliland cracks down on media again, closing two TV channels
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns last week’s arbitrary closures and bans on two popular privately-owned TV stations in Hargeisa, the capital of northwestern Somalia’s self-proclaimed independent republic of Somaliland, where media and journalists are constantly persecuted.
Despite coming shortly after historic peace talks with Somalia, this latest crackdown is unlikely to improve Somaliland’s prospects of obtaining the international recognition it has sought ever since breaking away from Somalia in 1991. Star TV and Universal TV were suddenly closed by police on 25 and 27 June respectively, a week and a half after the presidents of Somaliland and Somalia met in neighbouring Djibouti with the aim of improving relations, and as these former European colonies celebrated the 60th anniversaries of their independence. After closing the two stations, the Hargeisa authorities ordered satellite TV operators to drop them from the selection of TV channels they offer. According to the information obtained by RSF, Star TV was closed for organizing a debate revealing details about matters discussed at the Djibouti summit, while Universal TV was accused of broadcasting coverage of independence celebrations in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, instead of an address by Somaliland’s president.
“While peace is negotiated abroad, media are silenced at home,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “No other region of Somalia suffers as many, repeated attacks on the freedom to inform as Somaliland. Peace and development will continue to be no more than wishful thinking as long as journalists and media are still persecuted. These two TV channels did nothing wrong. They must be allowed to resume broadcasting.”
Three journalists have also been arrested in Somaliland in connection with the talks in Djibouti. Somali Cable TV’s Khadar Mohamed Tarabi and Universal TV’s Khadar Farah Rigah were held for 24 hours after being arrested in Las Anod on 16 June while filming a protest against the lack of inclusion in the talks. Horyaal24 TV’s Jabir Said Duale was arrested in similar circumstances the same day in Erigavo.
Somalia is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.