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Somalia18 December 2006

Puntland journalist freed after serving sentence for reporting “false news”

Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled, a journalist based in the northeastern autonomous region of Puntland who reports for Mogadishu-based radio Simba, was released by the Puntland authorities yesterday. The region’s deputy interior minister said Guled had completed a sentence for “disseminating false news.”

05.12.2006 - Somali journalist arrested in Puntland, three Italian journalists expelled from Mogadishu

Reporters Without Borders is worried by deteriorating working conditions for journalists in Somalia, after the arrest of Somali journalist Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled of independent radio Voice of Peace, based in Galkayo, Puntland, in the north-east, and the arrest and expulsion of three Italian journalists from the capital Mogadishu.

Radical Islamist militia on 2 December seized Massimo Alberizzi, special correspondent for the privately-owned daily Il Corriere della Sera with freelance journalists, Emanuele Piano and Marco Ricchello and later forced them onto a plane to Nairobi.

"These arrests show clearly that between the law of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and the authorities in Puntland, Somalia is in the process of becoming a forbidden area for the independent press,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“Journalists are, at best the scapegoats of political hatreds, and at the worst unwanted witnesses to be removed. It is unacceptable that they should be the victims of a hidden or declared war, between rival factions in the Horn of Africa.”

Mohamud Guled, nicknamed “Africa” was arrested on 1st December 2006, in Bossasso, Puntland and has since been held at the headquarters of the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS).

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Reporters Without Borders’ partner organisation in Somalia, said he is suspected of links with the UIC, for broadcasting a report on Simba independent radio that religious leaders planned a demonstration in Bossasso on the same day. He also made unauthorised voice checks for the start of broadcasts in the town for radio Voice of Peace.

The Puntland authorities confirmed to the NUSOJ that they were investigating the journalist, who faces trial for threatening national security and territorial integrity if his links with the Islamic Courts were confirmed. To avoid hounding by the authorities, journalists in Puntland generally operate self-censorship on issues concerning the UIC, which controls most of Somalia including the capital Mogadishu.

Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera on 4 December carried an account by its reporter Massimo Alberizzi of how he, the other two journalists and their interpreter, Ali Edmondo, were threatened in the street by a young armed man and forcibly taken to the Sahafi Hotel. He was then taken alone to the airport where he was questioned by a member of the UIC intelligence services, ‘Mahad’, about his articles detailing Eritrean government support for the Somali Islamists.

Alberizzi managed to send a text message to the Italian government envoy for Somalia in Nairobi, Mario Raffaeli, who contacted leading Italian, Somali and UN officials. As a result, the journalist was returned to the hotel on the strength of a phone call from Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, chairman of the UIC Shura Council.

After several hours of heated discussion between the Shura moderates wanting to preserve the country’s “human face” and fundamentalists wanting to jail Alberizzi “pending further in-depth investigations into this journalist spy”, the three journalists were finally taken to the airport the following afternoon and put on a UN plane bound for Nairobi.

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