Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the forcible closure of a TV channel in Hargeisa, the capital of northwestern Somalia's self-proclaimed independent state of Somaliland. It is the latest in a recent series of crackdowns designed to silence independent and critical media outlets.
In a raid on Horyaal TV on the evening of 6 September, Somaliland's Crimes Investigations Department ordered its journalists to stop broadcasting, forced all of its employees to leave and then shut it down. Horyaal TV's owner, Mohamed Osman Mire Sayid, was arrested the next morning. The TV channel remains closed.
According to local NGOs that defend journalists, the raid was prompted by a report broadcast a week before about women who chew khat, the narcotic leaves of a plant that is cultivated in eastern Africa. Many countries ban its consumption.
"These completely arbitrary measures illustrate the extreme difficulty of producing independent, public interest reporting in Somaliland and the dangers to which journalists and media outlets are exposed when they attempt to do this," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk.
"We urge the authorities to allow this TV channel to resume broadcasting, to release its president, and to put an end to the repeated press freedom violations recently seen in Somaliland."
This is the second time in less than three months that this TV channel has been forced to close. As RSF reported at the time, Horyaal TV and Eryal TV were closed on the information ministry's orders in June for allegedly broadcasting "propaganda" that threatened Somaliland's security and its armed forces.
Last week a court in Hargeisa, which is Somalia's second largest city, ordered Internet service providers to block Hadhwanaag.ca, a news website that published a report about the Somaliland central bank governor's alleged involvement in corruption. The court did not hear the website's representatives before issuing the order.
Somalia is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.