Reporters Without Borders today accused the breakaway state of Somaliland’s government of abusing its authority by ordering the dismissal and arrest of two part-time employees of state-owned Radio Hargeisa on the grounds that they also worked for a new privately-owned radio station broadcasting from London.
"The two Radio Hargeisa employees must be cleared of all suspicion and unconditionally reinstated in their posts," the press freedom organizations said, stressing that, "their present situation, in which they are threatened with being thrown in prison if they go back to working as journalists, is intolerable."
Reporters Without Borders added: "The situation of press freedom in Hargeisa may not be as catastrophic as in Mogadishu, but the authorities are extremely sensitive about criticism. In the case of these two journalists, it is clear that they wanted to make an example and put Somaliland’s journalists on their guard, while trying to stifle a radio station they dislike by depriving it of local correspondents."
Radio Hargeisa presenter Hodo Ahmed Qarboshe and reporter Ahmed Suleyman Dhuhul were fired on the orders of deputy information minister Ali Elmi Geele on 22 March. The breakaway state’s government said it was an act of misconduct for the two part-time employees to also work for Radio Horyaal, a new London-based station that broadcasts to the Horn of Africa.
The Somali Journalist Network (SOJON), a local press freedom organization, said several agents detained Dhuhul at midday on 22 March on the orders of interior minister Ismaaciil Aadan Cismaanla and took him to the headquarters of Criminal investigation department. Qarboshe was arrested the next morning.
They were interrogated about their links with Radio Horyaal and its management, and were accused of "spying." They were finally released yesterday afternoon after the president of the Somaliland Journalists’ Association (SOLJA) paid bail for them.
The Somaliland government (which is dominated by the Udub party) claims that Radio Horyaal belongs to the leading opposition party, Kulmiye. The station denies this, although local sources quoted by SOJON maintain that Kulmiye does indeed have links with the station.
Located in northern Somalia, Somaliland unilaterally declared its independence in May 1991 but has never been officially recognised by the international community. The government, located in the city of Hargeisa, has never allowed privately-owned radio stations.