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Somalia17 October 2006

Newspaper critical of Islamic courts is publicly burned in Somaliland’s second city

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today that an angry crowd in Buro, the second largest city in the northern breakaway territory of Somaliland, burned more than a thousand copies of the independent daily Haatuf on 13 October on the grounds that it criticises the Mogadishu-based Islamic courts.

“Newspaper-burning is serious and should be condemned by all those who claim to be the guarantors of peace in Somalia,” the press freedom organisation said. “The Somaliland authorities must take steps to identify and punish those behind this public outrage. And those who incited this mob should realise it is an unacceptable and dangerous thing to do. Criticism is an inalienable right that you suppress to your own cost.”

Around 100 people took part in the public newspaper-burning in protest against Haatuf’s reports criticising the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which has controlled Mogadishu and two thirds of Somalia’s provinces since the summer. Somaliland has had de facto independence from the rest of Somalia since 1991.

The Reporters Without Borders local partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), quoted Somaliland-based journalists as saying the crowd had gathered in response to calls from local religious leaders linked to the UIC.

The NUSOJ said Haatuf had received several anonymous calls threatening to set fire to its office in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital. Haatuf - one of the most widely-circulated newspapers in all parts of Somalia - reacted by publishing the text of the threatening calls along with the phone numbers from where they had been made.

NUSOJ secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman told Reporters Without Borders: “This is a first in Somalia’s history. Never before has a newspaper been publicly burned anywhere in our country.”

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