Garowe, Puntland Somalia June 24, 2016: The Media Association of Puntland in the strongest terms vehemently condemn the ”death threats” aired toward the Puntland journalists from the Puntland Ministry of information in an audio recorded interview, similarly MAP denounces the closure of the Daljir FM radio. Both acts are gross violations of media freedom and suppression to freedom of expression, media rights and all fundamental human rights.
Police ordered by the Puntland Police acting commissioner stormed and shut down the station’s premises on Thursday evening both in Garowe and Bosaso while confiscating equipment “with the aim of rendering the station inoperable” and “in order to prevent the media from informing the public on crisis which has caused a flare of violence in the region over the past few days.
While the media is society’s watch dog, it is the duty of the journalists to inform people and provide them with information. The sinister move follows the latest polictical-crisis between the former Bari governor Abdisamad Gallan and the current Puntland administration. Earlier On Wednesday 22, Puntland Information Ministry issued an edict outlawing journalists from interviewing figures with links to pirates and terrorists referring to the former Bari governor.
In addition to general efforts by authorities to close down the space for critical public reporting and debate on issues of public interest, the government has made specific targeted efforts to suppress the media with “climate of fear, Death-threats, intimidations, crackdown of media property and censorship”.
The Puntland Ministry of information Known for his impulsive remarks was quoted in an audio recorded interview hours before the closure of Daljir station in which he swore to use force and kill journalists against journalists for not following his orders, he also vowed to take actions while bypassing the Puntland constitutional provisions and laws that protect the freedom of expression and media rights.
The Media Association of Puntland (MAP) is gravely concerned of this latest moves from the government with a new trend of government officials publicly posing threats to kill Journalist undermining articles 14 and 22 of the Puntland Constitution, Article 18 of the Provisional Constitution and the International legal framework that protects freedom of expression.
The Puntland Media Fraternity together with its representative organization MAP are taking this development very seriously and the police are fully aware of our concerns. At a press conference gathering held at MAP’s headquarter compound in Garowe, MAP together with a number of Journalists, chief editors and staff expressed their discontentment over the government’s closure of Radio Daljir and Death threats from the Puntland Ministry of Information – Mohamud So’ade. We sent out a statement of solidarity and precaution over the threats and call for the immediate withdrawal on the closure of the Daljir radio station.
“We are dismayed to hear that the Daljir radio station carrying independent news has been closed,” said MAP’s secretary general. She added, “The Puntland authorities must immediate withdraw their decision and allow Daljir FM radio station to resume operations, and stop denying the Puntland society their right to information.”
”A threat against a journalist is highly deplorable and all attempts to undermine press freedom must be firmly resisted, we call on the entire media fraternity to take self precaution on their safety as we assess the threats, if Minister of information believes in using force and denying the existence of a constitution in Puntland that protects freedom of expression, we as MAP believe Puntland has got a constitution and none is above the law, Said MAP’s executive member Saalim
Restrictive media law
In 2014, the current Puntland administration amended the new Puntland media law to “legalize” the repression of freedom of speech and media freedoms. Puntland government reviewed the law to give the government full authority on who can become a journalist as well as the power to suspend journalists and media firms at their whim.
MAP mobilized Media stakeholders -Puntland lawmakers (50%), civil society organizations (22%), officials from the Puntland Ministry of information, culture and Heritage (5%) , and media practitioners (13% ) – for consultations on the review of the media law.
The consultations resulted in consensus on the revision for the Puntland Media Law, participants proposed;
a. the appointment of a review committee comprising 6-technical experts drawn from the media stakeholders in Puntland.
b. They suggested the committee to consult with Puntland Ministry of information, MAP, Civil society groups and the Parliamentary media committee during the review of the medial law.
c. Participants further suggested the reviewed draft law be delivered to the Minister of information who will then inform the President and submit to parliament to pass the bill and finally back to the President for enactment.
On the implemetation phase of the stakeholders proposal to review the media law. Puntland’s Ministry of information declined to colaborate with MAP and civil society. MAP’s tireless advocacy remains high and will conitously advocate for its reform.
Trends in 2015
Since 2014, violence and impunity against the Media has increased by about 70% in Puntland State, Somalia. In 2015, Journalists went through mental and physical attacks (threats, beatings, injuries and murder), done through amending the media law to legalize repression of the media (decreeing of censorship, arbitrary arrests and detention), and targeted media equipment itself (broadcasting equipment and offices).
In 2015 alone, 6 journalists were arrested, 4 media firms were banned from operations, 3 journalists were attacked and physically injured, while over 20 journalists were threatened with detention for performing their duties.
The upward trend of repression caused grave concerns for local and global defenders of human rights and press freedoms. Journalists continued to get into trouble with the government for inquiring about corruption denouncing poor governance, or criticizing repressive media laws. The obedience of the police has been repeatedly exploited to benefit politicians and violate the rights and freedoms of journalists.
The Media Association of Puntland brings to attention and calls for:
To the Puntland government
• Immediately retreat decision on the closure of the Daljir FM Radio station with no conditions and allow the freedom of speech with respect in the provisions in the Puntland’s constitution and International law.
• The attack “provides additional evidence that Puntland government disregard all calls of respecting media freedoms, and the importance to respond and stop committing those systematic crimes and violations against journalists and media freedoms in Puntland.
• If the advances in free speech are to encompass a genuine and enduring impact on Puntland society, the government should take immediate measures to condemn all attacks on journalists as well as fight impunity of attackers on crimes against Journalist, especially the blatant death threats and disrespect for the constitution and basic tenets of freedom of expression made by Mohamed So’ade the Puntland Ministry of information.
• In this regard, the office of the Puntland Attorney general should steadily bear out effective, impartial, and transparent investigations into all attacks on journalists and the media including the past cases.
• In parallel, the parliament should amend the restrictive Puntland media law that curtails the right to freedom of expression and the media, which has been used to pursue charges against journalists for doing their job.
• Journalists must be allowed to work in the public interest without intimidation. There is an obligation on those in positions of influence to work to ensure that reporters, photographers and editors are able to operate without risk or threat from any quarter and or media house.
To the international community and donors
• Press the Puntland president and Parliament to take action and enact legislation to protect journalists and the media.
• Protect the violation of the international laws and press the government to bring the perpetrators of impunity on crime against to be punished.
Today, press freedom in Puntland and the rest of Somalia faces a more severe and diverse set of challenges than at any point than the past years. While some progress has been made to push back against censorship in the region, increased violence against journalists and new forms of censorship now pose a significant concern.
Finally MAP recalls for the Puntland and Somali authorities to take all the necessary measures – through legislation, protection mechanisms, and new adequate resources – to ensure that investigations and trials relating to crimes against journalists are undertaken. Authorities’ failure to address the entrenched impunity in anti-press violence enables attack after attack.