Ten years after the dictator Syaad Barre was overthrown in 1991, the national transitional government, set up in August 2000 following a reconciliation conference in Djibouti, has been unable to stabilise the situation in the country. Fighting has broken out again in some areas which had been relatively peaceful for years. In June 2001 the United Nations security council passed a resolution authorising journalists and the staff of humanitarian organisations to wear bullet-proof jackets in Somalia, even though the arms embargo prohibits the export of this type of equipment to the country.
The situation is very different in each of the two breakaway states in the north. In late May 2001 Somaliland in the north-west celebrated the tenth anniversary of its self-proclaimed independence and adopted its first constitution by referendum. In Puntland in the north-east the election of a new president in November was immediately followed by an outburst of violence. It was journalists in that area who suffered most from threats during the year. About ten newspapers exist in these two states.
One journalist jailed
On 21 February 2001 Abdishakur Yusuf, journalist with the weekly War Ogaal, was arrested in Bosaso in Puntland. He was accused of making a "false statement" after reporting that two young homosexual girls had been sentenced to death for "unnatural behaviour". He was released on 1 April without being tried. The journalist said that the authorities decided to release him due to a lack of evidence. He added that he intended to sue the authorities for "illegal detention". During his imprisonment Abdishakur Yusuf contracted malaria and had to be hospitalised in Bosaso.
Two journalists arrested
Police arrested Bile Mohamed Qabowsade, managing editor of the daily Soyal, and Mohamed Said, managing editor of the weekly Yool, on 27 August 2001 in Bosaso, in Puntland. They were accused of publishing "inflammatory news" about insecurity reigning in the town. The two men were released the next day.
Pressure and obstruction
In early October 2001 Mohamed Muhiadin Ali, editor-in-chief of the weekly Panorama, said that he had received death threats after publishing an editorial and a cartoon in which Ossama bin Laden was depicted as a "fugitive terrorist". The journalist thinks that the organisation Al-Itihad (an Islamist group accused by the United States of supporting international terrorism) is at the origin of these threats. "Something could happen to you if you carry on publishing articles against bin Laden", he was reportedly told over the phone.