#Somalia: 25 Journalists Arrested, 4 Still Held, TV Station Closed

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Reporters Without Borders is worried by events of the past week affecting the media in the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland, in which a total of 25 journalists were arrested and a television station, HornCable TV, was closed in Hargeisa, the territory’s capital.

The organization accuses the authorities to trying to intimidate the media and calls for the release of four journalists still being held illegally.

“This wave of arrests of journalists is without precedent in Somaliland,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are disturbed by this crackdown and by the president’s readiness to brand a media as a ‘nation destructor.’ This will further intimidate journalists who already have to cope with tough conditions in this region of Somalia. We urge the authorities to free the four journalists still being held and to reopen HornCable TV without delay.”

When HornCable TV employees demonstrated outside the presidential palace in Hargeisa yesterday in protest against the station’s closure, they were attacked and beaten by members of the Somaliland Special Protection Unit and eight of them were arrested. The eight detainees, all journalists, were Nimco Sabriye, Hamsa Ali Bulbul, Mohamed Gurashe, Abdirahman Sheik Yunes, Ayan Diriye, Nimo’ Diriye, Hodan Ali Ajabi and Safiya Nuh Sheikh.

Thirteen other journalists from various media who went to help their detained colleagues were then also arrested. HornCable TV’s owner was summoned to the president’s office later yesterday and interrogated. The detained journalists, who included six women, were taken to police headquarters in Hargeisa and were finally released today on interior minister Mohamed Nour Arale’s orders, after being held for more than 24 hours.

HornCable TV was closed on 14 January when around 100 policemen arrived in seven armoured vehicles, ordered all the staff to leave and sealed the doors. The transmitter was disconnected soon afterwards. The officer in charge of the raid, Mohamed Du’alle, admitted he did not have a warrant but said he was acting on orders from superiors. Mohamed Abdi Sheik, HornCable TV’s East Africa director, was briefly detained during the operation.

In an address to parliament earlier the same day, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Siilaanyon described HornCable TV as a “nation destructor” and accused it of broadcasting anti-government propaganda.

The government’s anger was reportedly aroused by the station’s coverage of a tribal meeting in Taleh district of Sool region, in which representatives of various tribes announced the creation of an autonomous administration in the region. The interior minister confirmed that this was the reason, and said the station’s licence had been withdrawn for “anti-Somaliland propaganda.”

The four journalists who are still detained were arrested in series of incidents from 8 to 11 January.

Ali Ismail Aare, a reporter for the weekly Waheen, was arrested on 11 January for taking photos of a service station and a building belonging to Somaliland Vice-President Abdirahman Abdilahi. Mohamed Omar Sheikh, a reporter for the weekly Saxafi, was arrested the same day for writing articles that were deemed likely to create conflict in the Awdal region.

Abdqani Hassan Farah, a Universal TV reporter in Las Anod district of Sool region, was arrested with two colleagues from HornCable TV and Somaliland TV on 9 January. The other two were freed after a few hours but Farah, also known as Gadari, is still being held on a charge of “exaggerating reports of a meeting that created instability in the Sool, Sanag and Eyn regions.” It was a meeting of the Taleh tribes the day before. His arrest was reportedly arranged by Sool’s governor on the orders of Somaliland information minister Ahmed Abdi Habsade.

On 9 January, Somaliland police also prevented four journalists from attending the laying of fibre-optic cable by SomCable Ltd that will enable the territory to be connected with the outside world via Djibouti. It has been the source of a great deal of controversy as it was authorized by the previous government and rejected by the new one.

Finally, Yusuf Abdi Ali, a reporter better known as Indho Quruh who works for London-based Royal TV, was arrested without a warrant in the Borame district of the city of Awdal on 8 January after being accused by a local NGO, Africa Youth Development Association, of making false allegations of corruption and management problems in local development projects. He is still being held in the Borame district police station. He has not been charged and has not been able to see a lawyer.

This is the list of 21 journalists who were arrested on 15 January and were freed the next day:

1. Mohamud Abdi Jama, editor-in-chief, Waaheen newspaper 2. Mohamed Omar Abdi, editor-in-chief, Jamhuuriya newspaper 3. Ahmed Aden Dhere, reporter, Haatuf newspaper 4. Mohamed Said Harago, head of news, Berberanews 5. Najah Adan Unaye, director, Hadhwanaagnews 6. Suhur Barre, reporter, HornCable TV 7. Abdiqani Abdullahi Ahmed, reporter, Hadhwanaagnews 8. Mohamed Ahmed Muse, reporter, HornCable TV 9. Mohamed Fayr, reporter, Geeska Africa newspaper 10. Saleban Abdi Ali Kalshaale, reporter, Waaheen newspaper 11. Khalid Hamdi Ahmed, reporter, Waaheen newspaper 12. Nimo Omar Mohmed Sabriye, presenter, HornCable TV 13. Hamsa Ali Bulbul, reporter, HornCable TV 14. Mohamed Ahmed Muse Kurase, reporter, HornCable TV 15. Abdirahman Sheik Yunes, presenter, HornCable TV 16. Ayan Diriye, reporter, HornCable TV 17. Nimo’ Diriye, reporter, HornCable TV 18. Hodan Ali Ajabi, reporter, HornCable TV 19. Safiya Nuh Sheikh, presenter, HornCable TV 20. Ahmed Abdirahman Hersi, news editor, HornCable TV 21. Jama Omar Abdullahi, reporter, Waaheen newspaper

 

via allAfrica.com: Somalia: In Past Week in Somaliland, 25 Journalists Arrested, Four Still Held and TV Station Closed.

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Slice of Life as a Mogadishu Humanitarian Aid Worker

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English: Mogadishu Skyline 2006

Image via Wikipedia

FROM THE FIELD: KEEPING HOPE ALIVE IN MOGADISHU

It is a hot, dusty morning in Mogadishu, the war-ravaged capital of Somalia, and Ahmed Farah Roble is in a makeshift settlement for internally displaced persons (IDPs), listening to a mother tell him about her baby daughter.

Ahmed nods patiently, asks questions and listens attentively. He is in the camp to meet with its representatives, to learn more about their situation. Many have recently arrived from the country’s south, fleeing hunger and conflict. They have very little, and urgently need food and medicine, shelter and health care.

It is hard not to be affected by what he sees and hears, especially as the 45-year-old was born and raised in Mogadishu. As the longest-serving UN humanitarian affairs officer in the capital, Ahmed has heard many similar heart-breaking tales before.

“But it is painful, still. I can say that, before, this was a peaceful city. It was paradise. Now, these people living here have lost everything, their property, opportunities for education. There are not enough health services. There is no safe drinking water in some areas,” he says.

“I’m one of those who was here in the golden days, when the situation was good. These last 20 years, when the country was devastated by endless and continuous conflict, it is really painful for me.”

For much of the past four years, through some of Mogadishu’s heaviest fighting, he was the lone man on the ground for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – the part of the UN responsible for bringing together humanitarian groups to ensure a coherent response to emergencies.
The situation has been so dangerous that, until recently, OCHA was unable to deploy more staff to join him.

“It was not an easy task to work here then,” says Ahmed. “All of the humanitarian community was targeted, no matter whether they were international or national. You could be targeted, kidnapped and killed at any time.” “It was a critical time, and even for me it was very difficult to get access to the people most in need.”

National staff members like Ahmed make up more than 90 per cent of humanitarian workers around the world, working on the frontlines. Too often, they bear the brunt of violence, as illustrated today with the deaths of two staff members of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and a colleague working for a partner organization in central Somalia.

The dangers of working in Somalia, and restricted access for internationals, have led to a greater reliance on national staff, as well as local partners.

“International staff bring a wealth of technical experience to this crisis, but the role played by national staff is just as important,” says Marcel Stoessel, the head of OCHA’s sub-office in Mogadishu. “After all, nobody knows Somalia better than the Somalis – and without the local expertise of our national colleagues, international staff couldn’t do their jobs.”

“National staff speak the local language and often some local dialects as well, so they can more easily interact with people. They also understand the clan structure in Somalia, which is important if one wants to be successful in this humanitarian operation. They help us make crucial links with the government.

“Last, but not least, it’s much safer for them to move around Mogadishu than it is for international staff. People like Ahmed are our ‘humanitarian eyes and ears’.”

Ahmed’s family is in a neighbouring country for safety. For much of the time that he has been in Mogadishu, the city has been riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides – fighters belonging to the Islamist militant Al-Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The violence worsened the already dire humanitarian situation for the city’s existing residents, and well as the many new people who sought help and refuge there after famine struck parts of the south in mid-2011.
Since Al-Shabaab’s withdrawal from the central parts of Mogadishu in August, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city’s outskirts – but the situation is still far from secure. The use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is a regular occurrence, and on the rise.

“The scale-up of humanitarian aid has done a lot for the situation here. Malnutrition rates and mortality rates have dropped, and access is better in some places – so I have been able to visit various IDP settlements. But there is a need for more help,” Ahmed says. “I see it and hear it all the time.”

Heading back to his car to make his way to the OCHA sub-office is no easy feat. IDPs try to grab his attention with every step. Finally back at his desk, now populated with two new national colleagues and three international colleagues, Ahmed starts preparing a report on what he has heard and seen during his visit.

The report will inform OCHA and its partners about the humanitarian needs of that IDP settlement, allowing the humanitarian system to direct essential aid to its residents.

“I have the sense of a humanitarian. That’s a real driving force which helps me to forget everything, especially when I feel so far from my family, when I am doing this night and day. I’m just happy that I am doing a good thing.”