The authorities in Somaliland must re-open the offices of an independent and outspoken newspaper in Hargeisa, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said today.
According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFJ affiliate, Hubaal newspaper in Haregisa, Somaliland is still closed down since 13 December 2013 following a raid of police rapid reinforcement unit (RRU). Police is still occupying the headquarters of the independent and outspoken newspaper.
“We are deeply disturbed by the actions of Somaliland authorities to shut down Hubaal newspaper and forcefully occupy its offices,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director. “Authorities in Hargeisa should halt their on-going crackdown on Hubaal and allow it to operate without fear of reprisal”.
Somaliland police accused Hubaal newspaper of dividing the leadership of the police and misleading security officials. The police further claimed that they obtained court order to close down, although they failed to produce during the raid.
"The continued closure of Hubaal and presence of police in their offices are nothing but censorship and an attempt to intimidate other media from being critical," said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman. "Somaliland should withdraw all its forces immediately. Hubaal newspaper and its journalists are exercising their journalistic duty and the authorities must not target them because of their media work.”
Harassment of Hubaal newspaper and its journalists has increased since April 2013 as the newspaper has been covering critical issues. On 11 June 2013, a Somaliland regional court in Hargeisa banned the publishing and distribution of Hubaal newspaper.
On 3 July 2013, Hubaal editor Hassan Hussein Keefkeef was sentenced to two years in jail, while the paper's managing director Mohamed Ahmed Jama Aloley received a one-year sentence. Both men were also ordered to pay a 2,000,000-shilling ($350) fine each, Marodi Jeh Regional Court Judge Osman Ibrahim Dahir told the media.
The two journalists were found guilty of reporting “false news”, “slandering top Somaliland officials”, and “falsely accusing employees of the Ethiopian consulate of smuggling alcohol into Hargeisa”. Somaliland President later pardoned both journalists and the newspaper was allowed to resume its operations.
On 24 April 2013, two gunmen attacked the headquarters of Hubaal newspaper injuring managing director Mohamed Ahmed Jama. The two gunmen are believed to be Somaliland police, and one of the policemen was caught by the Hubaal staffers and was later released by Somaliland authorities.
“Clearly this is systematic campaign to censor and intimidate an independent newspaper in Somaliland. Hubaal is a victim of its reporting about what is really happening in Somaliland” added Baglo.
The IFJ urges Somaliland to ensure that independent media outlets are not harassed, and to allow Somaliland journalists to practice their profession without fear of retaliation.
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The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries