- With the arrest of the editor of Somaliland's leading independent newspaper, 'Jamhuuriya', there are growing concerns over the future of press freedom in the young and unrecognised republic. Editor Hassan Said Yusuf allegedly was arrested because his newspaper recently published information accusing the government of considering participating in the Somali peace talks.
Somaliland is struggling to demonstrate to the world that the country should be recognised as an independent state, referring to its peace, stability, democracy and press freedom. Therefore, Somaliland doesn't participate in the Somali conference in Nairobi, claiming the "South" (Somalia except Somaliland) will have to find its peace on its own.
Both these bases of Somaliland's policies have been given a major blow this week. An article by Somaliland's leading independent daily, 'Jamhuuriya', claims to document that the government indeed is considering participating in the Somali peace talks. According to sources interviewed by 'Jamhuuriya', the Somaliland government of President Dahir Riyale Kahin favours such participation, while the Kulmiye opposition party is strongly against it.
One day after the critical article was published in 'Jamhuuriya', the daily's editor, Mr Yusuf, was arrested at his office in Somaliland's capital, Hargeisa, by police officers armed with a warrant. Mr Yusuf is still in arrest, but it is unclear whether he has been formally charged.
On behalf of afrol News and Somaliland's Awdal News, editor Bashir Goth today contacted Somaliland's Interior Minister Ismail Adan. Minister Adan told Mr Goth that the 'Jamhuuriya' editor indeed had been arrested by Somaliland's Attorney General for reporting on alleged differences between the government and the Kulmiye opposition party regarding Somalia's peace talks.
- This is a blatant lie and the truth is quite the opposite, Minister Adan said, referring to the 'Jamhuuriya' report. "It is the Somaliland government that adamantly and vehemently rejects to have anything to do with Somalia and the participants of the Nairobi conference," the Minister added. The government had considered the editor's story as "inciting people against the government," editor Goth was told by Minister Adan.
Mr Goth, who is editor of the Somaliland online media 'Awdal News', today also issued a press release where he "condemns the arrest and continued detention" of his colleague in 'Jamhuuriya'. "As a country aspiring to gain international recognition for its hard won independence and its stunning record in building and maintaining peace and stability through the principles of democracy, freedom of expression and the ballot box, it is unbecoming and rather insulting to Somaliland citizens to be affronted, provoked and ridiculed for exercising their civic and legitimate rights of freedom of speech," said 'Awdal News'.
Mr Goth represents the many Somaliland media fearing a more repressive press freedom situation in the young republic. In fact, the tendencies have been negative for quite a while. The 'Jamhuuriya' editor is, according to the Paris-based media watchdogs Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), arrested for the 15th time by Somaliland police. Protests are streaming in from the Somalilander Diaspora against President Riyale's attempt to "'crush press freedom in Somaliland."
All agree that attacks on press freedom in Somaliland only can hurt the country - in a double way. The Somalilanders are depending on a free an outspoken press to secure their young democracy and spirit of voluntary work to develop the country. The government further needs to maintain its democratic and pluralistic image abroad to have any possibility of being recognised by the international community.
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