New York, October 2, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the suspension on Thursday of three Voice of America (VOA) reporters in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. Puntland’s Deputy Minister of Information Abdishakur Mire Adan issued a letter suspending all three VOA correspondents and any other VOA journalist from reporting in the region.
The suspended VOA correspondents included Nuh Muse in Garowe, Mohamed Yasin in Galkayo, and Abdulkadir Mohamed in Bossasso. According to the director general of the Somali Broadcasting Corporation, Mowliid Haji, the deputy minister also sent a decree banning all VOA affiliate FM relay stations from airing VOA programs from Friday onward.
Security Minister General Abdullahi Samatar and Adan wrote a separate letter on October 1 claiming the VOA reports from Puntland were “negative” and instigated instability in the region. The two officials held a press conference in Bossasso today and announced the VOA suspension in Puntland was indefinite, local journalists told CPJ.
The Washington-based VOA Somalia bureau chief, Abdirahman Yabarow, told CPJ he believes the suspension stems from a VOA interview Wednesday of Sheikh Sayid Khalif, a religious leader who allegedly opened a branch of the religious group Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama’a in Puntland. Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama’a is a non-militant, moderate Sufi group with considerable influence in the region, local journalists told CPJ.
“This suspension contravenes Puntland’s constitution and is a serious affront to press freedom in the region,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “Puntland authorities must lift this ban immediately and allow VOA Puntland coverage to continue without harassment.”
On August 25, Galkayo police briefly detained VOA correspondent Yasin after reporting that a former governor’s son had killed a man in broad daylight, local journalists told CPJ. Galkayo police warned Yasin the next day to stop all work for VOA.
According to local journalists, many parliamentarians are opposed to the suspension and have said they will raise the matter in the next parliamentary session.
CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.