Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the repeated silencing of independent media in Somalia's breakaway northwestern region of Somaliland after the authorities closed two more privately-owned TV stations yesterday in Hargeisa, the region's capital and Somalia's second largest city.
The closures of Horyaal TV and Eryal TV were carried out early yesterday morning by a group of around ten police officers who went to each station and presented their journalists with a letter signed by Somaliland's information minister ordering them to close for an indefinite period, local press freedom groups said.
The letter accused them of "propaganda" against the security and armed forces of Somaliland, which proclaimed its independence from Somalia in 1991 but is not recognized by the international community.The information minister's letter did not cite any examples and the Somaliland authorities have not as yet provided any further explanation for the closures.
But, according to the information gathered by RSF, the authorities have often harassed the two TV stations over their criticism of the government and their reporting from the border areas of Sool, Sanaag and Ayn, the subject of territorial disputes between Somaliland and its eastern neighbour, Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region.
"The closures of these TV stations without a specific reason, without warning and for undetermined duration confirms the very high level of harassment of independent media outlets in Somaliland," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk."We call on the Somaliland authorities to end these arbitrary media closures and repeated attacks on media personnel, especially as the local security situation already makes journalism very dangerous."
Press freedom in Somaliland is closely correlated to the state of its relations with Puntland. As RSF reported at the time, several media outlets were closed and several journalists were arrested a year ago during a surge in tension and armed clashes between the two neighbours.
Muse Bihi Abdi's election as Somaliland's president in 2017 did not bring any improvement in the situation of the media. In February 2019, the authorities ordered the independent newspaper Foore closed for a year for "false news" after it criticized the cost of building a new presidential palace.
Somalia is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.