We are writing to express our alarm over deteriorating conditions for independent journalists in Somaliland. The Committee to Protect Journalists has monitored 58 cases of journalist detentions by authorities since the beginning of the year. We urge you to use your office to reverse this trend of harassment and uphold your 2010 election campaign pledge to respect and improve freedom of the press.
During a weeklong visit to your country in April alone, CPJ documented the arbitrary arrests and brief detentions of reporters from Yool and Ogaal newspapers and broadcaster Royal TV. These three cases are part of a broader pattern of authorities arresting journalists without charge to block them from covering sensitive issues or as retribution for past critical reporting. In the few cases where authorities have sought legal charges, criminal defamation has been used where civil remedies should be sought, according to the Somaliland Lawyers' Association. While these detentions are often short-lived, they are sometimes brutal and always designed to intimidate the press into silence. In February, police arrested online reporter Mohamed Abdirahman in the northwestern town of Borama and beat him so severely that he had to travel outside the country for treatment, according to local journalists and news reports. No officers were reprimanded for the attack and no official charges were presented against the reporter, according to local journalists. We urge you to call publicly for an investigation into the beating and to ensure that those found responsible are punished.
While deeply concerned about detentions, we note with encouragement pledges by your government to table this month the Broadcast Bill, which would allow private radio broadcasters and a press ombudsman. A genuine parliamentary review of this legislation, in consultation with media representatives, would support your campaign promises to liberalize the airwaves and permit independent radio stations.
Mr. President, the fair and credible elections that brought you to power represented a momentous achievement for democracy in the region and the continent as a whole. CPJ calls on you to set a further example by ensuring that Somaliland's independent media are allowed to operate freely and without intimidation.