Somalia: Puntland Police Shutdown Radio Station, Seize Equipments and Detain Radio Director in Boosaaso

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is condemns the raid on the privately owned radio station in the commercial port town of Boosaaso in the semi-autonamous regions of Puntland, on late Saturday night on 3 March, 2012 around 10:20pm local time and the detention of its director by the Puntland police.

Armed police raided the radio premises of Radio Voice of Peace (Codka Nabadda Radio) in Boosaaso on Saturday night March 3, 2012, around 10:20pm local time taking equipments including two laptop computers, the mixer and locked the studio. The police later left the radio station closed down, according to local journalists. The director of the radio, Awke Abdullahi Ali confirmed the attack, before he was detained.

On Saturday Afternoon, Codka Nabadda Radio broadcast, on one of its daily afternoon program aired at 3:00pm, called "Bandhiga Codka Nabadda", clashes that erupted between the Puntland administration and the militants - affiliated to Al-Shabab, fighting against the Puntland administration at the Galgala mountains near Boosaaso of Bari region on Saturday , according to a journalist, who was one of the producers of the Afternoon program, told NUSOJ.

During the coverage, the Radio interviewed Puntland Presidential spokesman, Libaax Joore telling their side of the story and announced "their army won the Galgala fight on Saturday and killed many insurgent army " However, the journalists sought the other side of the story and quoted a Shabab spokesman, Abu Muscab, a group which has recently announced their affiliations to Al-Qaeda, on one of the Somali websites, claiming to have seized technical vehicles from Puntland army at Galgala fight on Saturday and killed many of its soldiers."

"We were covering the fight in Galgala on Saturday in the afternoon program, we have interviewed the Puntland presidential spokesman known as Libaax Joore about the fight and he told victories on their side.

But, to balance the story, we have quoted Shabab spokesman on one of the Somali language websites." A journalist whose name withheld for security reasons said, "I think that news infuriated the Puntland administration and led to the closure of the radio."

The police later assaulted the residence of the Director of Codka Nabadda Radio in Boosaaso, Awke Abdullahi and took him to the Boosaaso Central police jail on Saturday night around 11:00pm local time, his wife Istahil Abdi confirmed his arrest to NUSOJ.

The police accused the radio during the raid that "The Radio aired propaganda news related to the Shabab."

"We condemn the strongest terms possible to the act of raid, closure and detention of our colleague by the Puntland Police." Mohamed Ibrahim, NUSOJ Secretary General said, "The Attack is a direct violation and attempt obstruct the free flow of information and news from the other side of the story from the public. These attacks must stop"

"We call for the Puntland Authorities to the return the equipment and release the director of the Codka Nabada Radio in Boosaaso, Awke Abdullahi from jail. even If they had done a mistake, such an attack could not have been the response." Mr. Ibrahim added.

Similar incident took place on 13 August, 2010, when the director of Horseed Radio, Abdifatah Jama Mire was jailed for airing an interview from the rebel commander in Galgala Mountains near the town of Boosaaso of Bari region and was later handed down to six years jail term. Mire was not provided with legal counsel, and neither the police nor the prosecutor presented evidence at the trial. Despite the fact that the prosecutor only requested a three year prison term, Bosaso District Judge Farah Hassan Ismail sentenced Mirensu to six years in jail and a fine equivalent to US$ 500. He was released after 86 days in detention by the Puntland authorities. He is currently in exile in Kampala, Uganda.

On 2nd July, 2011, Online journalist, Faysal Mohamed Hassan, who was the correspondent of Hiiraan Online in Bosaso was sentenced to one year jail term by the Puntland court in Bosaso, after he was accused of publishing false news information. He was released on 31 July, 2011 following presidential pardon.

Puntland had already had a poor record of press freedom and had forced the independent media in Puntland not to report contrary to their side of the story or face serious consequences including long jail terms.

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