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Reporters Without Borders condemn the arrest of Universal TV Staff

Wednesday October 7, 2015

Reporters Without Borders condemns the indefinite closure of London-based Universal TV’s East Africa offices in Mogadishu and the arbitrary detention of East Africa director Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye and programme presenter Ali Dahir Salad.

Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye and Ali Dahir Salad were arrested without a warrant when they responded to a summons to report to the Mogadishu headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) on 2 October. NISA officers raided Universal TV’s offices later the same day and shut them down.

According to the information obtained by local NGOs that defend journalists, the attorney-general’s office has given NISA 21 days to conduct an investigation, during which time the two journalists are to remain in prison without being brought before a judge.

Local analysts attribute the arrests and raid to the comments of two parliamentarians during a broadcast of the very popular programme “Doodwadaag” (Debate) on 30 September.

The parliamentarians referred to a parliamentary motion challenging the government and to the presence of Ethiopian troops within the African Union military presence in Somalia – comments likely to have angered the government, which rarely tolerates media coverage of sensitive subjects including anything liable to exacerbate old disputes between Ethiopia and Somalia.

On Saturday the State minister for information Maxamuud Cabdi Xasan said that, "The Universal TV has been repeatedly warned by the security forces to stop the anti government propaganda which they ignored. They have been arrested and will be taken to court shortly.”

For Reporters Without Borders, “The detention of these two journalists is an absolutely illegal measure that violates the principles of freedom of information and expression enshrined in Somalia’s constitution.”

“Such arbitrary actions send a very disturbing message to all the Somali media, which have a key role to play in the democratic debate before the 2016 elections. We call on the Somali government to free these two journalists and to reopen the Universal TV studios”, Reporters Without Borders said.

The Somali government often closes down media outlets that irritate it.

In August 2014, the authorities evicted Radio Shabelle from its premises because they wanted to take them over. After Radio Shabelle found a new location, several of its employees were jailed in April 2015 when the radio station broadcast statements by a spokesman for the armed Islamist militia Al Shabaab.

A total of 37 journalists have been killed since 2010 without any credible investigations being carried out. This makes Somalia one of Africa’s most dangerous countries for media personnel.

Universal TV investigative reporter Mohamed Mohamud was fatally shot six times at close range in October 2013.

Somalia is ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.


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