Somaliland: Government Forces Closure of Independent Newspapers

Somaliland government authorities must allow the immediate reopening of independent newspapers Haatuf and the Somaliland Times, both of which were raided and forcibly closed by police authorities on Monday 7th April 2014, said the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) today.

On Monday 7th April 2014, Somaliland police officers reportedly entered the Hargeisa premises of Haatuf, an independent Somali language newspaper, and its English language sister publication The Somaliland Times. Police officers ordered the newspaper’s immediate closure, and newspaper staff were told to leave the building. According to reports from the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), police officers were executing a recent judgement issued by Marodi Jeeh Regional court, which authorised Haatuf’s closure on the basis of recent articles ‘insulting’ to members of parliament. Haatuf had recently published articles touching on issues of government corruption.

The forced closure of Haatuf and the Somaliland Times marks the latest in a series of worrying attacks against journalists and media institutions led by Somaliland government authorities. The independent newspaper Hubaal was repeatedly targeted by government authorities throughout 2013, culminating in a raid on its premises and its forced closure in December. Hubaal’s editor and manager were prosecuted and sentenced to custodial sentences and fines in July 2013 on defamation charges, following the newspaper’s publication of news reports critical of the government.

Haatuf itself has a long and proud history as an independent and often critical voice within Somaliland. In March 2007, EHAHRDP conducted a trial observation mission to Somaliland to monitor and report on the trial of Haatuf‘s chairman, editor, and two other journalists. Criminal charges were brought against Haatuf and its staff members following the newspaper’s publication of reports on government corruption issues from November 2006 to January 2007. EHAHRDP observed that the trial was not only politically motivated, but also deeply procedurally flawed, with widespread misapplication of basic and fundamental legal principles by the court.

“The raid on Haatuf and its sister publication the Somaliland Times should be understood as part of a long term pattern of attacks by the Somaliland government against independent, critical media voices,” said Mr. Hassan Shire, Executive Director of EHAHRDP. “The Somaliland government should respect the rule of law, the provisions of its own constitution, and allow journalists and media houses to report and publish freely”.

EHAHRDP calls on the Somaliland authorities to immediately allow Haatuf and the Somaliland Times to reopen, to respect the vital role played by journalists and other human rights defenders in Somaliland, and support them to carry out their work, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Hassan Shire, Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 772 753 753

Ms Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy & Research Manager, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 778 921 274

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