The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today condemned an "increasing pattern" of intimidation and harassment of journalists and media houses in Puntland as a means of intimidating and silencing journalists working in the public interest.
On 22 September, Puntland's Information Minister Ali Hassan Ahmed (Sabareey) announced that all journalists in Puntland are requested to register at his ministry before 15 October 2019. The Minister who held a press conference in Garowe city on Sunday also ordered all the independent media houses operating in Puntland to register in "order to monitor their daily journalistic work".
Minister Ali Sabareey added that the Ministry will examine the knowledge and experience of journalists and revoke his or her accreditation if proved lacking sufficient journalism skills, which is deemed by journalists as a naked attempt to curtail rights and freedoms of critical and journalists.
"We express our deep concerns over this unlawful order which is designed to inhibit ongoing investigations and prevent legitimate public interest reporting. This obnoxious directive only adds fuel to the flames by attempting to control & punish independent journalists and compel media houses to register for reprehensible reasons," said Awil Mohamud Abdi, President of the Supreme Council of NUSOJ.
Speaking in Garowe, NUSOJ Secretary of Information and Human Rights, Khadar Awl Ismail, said: "This is an attempt by Puntland government in which the person it favors will be recognized as a practicing journalist while critical and independent journalists will be denied to practice journalism which is a total contradiction of Puntland media law".
The union further terms this latest repressive action by Puntland authorities as unconstitutional as it goes against constitutional rights of journalists as guaranteed by the Puntland constitution and provisional constitution of Somalia.
"This directive carries all the hallmarks of a government-inspired attempt to control and intimidate journalists and media houses," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary-General. "It is not surprising that a number of our colleagues in Puntland have been harassed while the government fabricates this illegitimate directive as a means to control the critical journalists."
NUSOJ calls on the Puntland government to put an end to all harassment and targeting of journalists and to respect the rights of the media to criticize without fear of reprisal. The union's concern follows a number of cases in recent weeks against the media in Puntland.
Puntland police briefly arrested a prominent Journalist Hasan Heykal working for Radio Daljir in Bosaso city on 17 September 2019. Heykal's detention followed multiple raids on Radio Daljir offices in Garowe and Bosaso on 14 and 15 September 2019 respectively and the briefly shut the radio's transmitter in Bosaso on 16 September.
The raids and the brief shutdown of Radio Daljir came after the station aired series of reports by Radio Daljir about the death of an inmate who died as a result of torture by police at the coast of Bosaso under the command of Puntland Police Commissioner, General Muhiadin Ahmed Muse.
The leading privately-owned Radio has been attacked several times this month and its journalists were intimidated for reporting the unpleasant human rights abuses in Puntland by the state police force.
"Restriction on media in covering events of public importance is against the norms of media freedom. NUSOJ urges Puntland authority to allow journalists and media houses to perform their duty of informing the public about the unfolding events freely and independently," said Osman.
Finally, NUSOJ calls on the authorities in Puntland to immediately rescind this unlawful directive and to stop an ongoing and heightened campaign of harassment against the free media.