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NUSOJ Condemns Closure of Newspapers in Somaliland

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today accused Somaliland authorities in northwest Somalia of seeking to annihilate independent print media following a ban on two newspapers, owned by Hubal Media Group.

A court order which was issued by Somaliland’s Marodi-Jeh (in Hargeisa) Regional court on 11 June 2013 ordered the Hubal Media Group to close down its operations with immediate effect without giving reasons for the action thus affecting both the daily Somali language (Hubal) and weekly English language (independent) newspapers, which are both published by Hubaal Media Group.

“This closure plays to an agenda of an administration that is more about stifling independent voices and free reporting,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “It is further proof that media continue to be primary victims of a crackdown by Somaliland authorities to avoid hard truths and public exposure.”

The regional chief magistrate Faysal Abdullahi Ismail said the court order arose from a request from the office of the Attorney General, which was signed by acting Attorney General Adan Ahmed Musa and affects any printing house that facilitates the production of the Hubal media group publications while the ban exists.

The motive behind the closure of the media group is a news article Hubal newspaper published pertaining to the on-going dispute of Nile River between Egypt and Ethiopia in which the newspaper alleged that Somaliland administration has role in this dispute, siding one of the disputing countries, according to the editor–in Chief of Hubal newspaper Abdullahi Adan Omar, widely known Wayab.

“The decision of the acting Attorney General to request the closure is a clear example of abusive censorship that breaches Somaliland constitution as well as basic international standards of freedom of expression,” added Osman.

Abdullahi Adan Omar said that they were never communicated the decision of the court but they only heard from the government – controlled Radio Hargeisa about the decision of the court.

It is believed that the government action was initiated by a story published on 9 June, stating that a delegation of Egyptian officials who reportedly accompanied Yemeni businessmen came Somaliland on 8 June and met the President of Somaliland Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo to discuss the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over Nile river, which the newspaper reported that it raised suspicion between Ethiopia and Somaliland, subsequently forcing Somaliland foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar to hold press conference on 10 June denying the said meeting and the arrival of Egyptian officials.

On 24 April, two Somaliland police attacked one of the editors of Hubal newspaper. The editor Mohamed Ahmed Jama, known Aloley, sustained a broken right hand and third finger of the left hand after a bullet aimed at him hit the wall above his head and rebounded several times after two masked gunmen attacked the offices of Hubal newspaper.

Jama told NUSOJ that the attack ensued around 23hrs as he and two other journalists were making final proofreading to the following day's issue. One of the suspected attackers was arrested and investigation has been going on until this court order closing down the media group emerged. According to the editor, the suspected assailant is actually a police officer named Ahmed Hashi Hassan who is stationed at the Mohamed Moge Police station in Hargeisa.

Journalists in Somaliland believe that this attack in April against the editor emanated from senior officials from Somaliland administration who could not tolerate criminal reports of the newspaper regarding the work of the national electoral commission.

NUSOJ considers that the closure of the media group is the inevitable consequence of an intolerable campaign against independent journalism in Somaliland since the current administration took office.