ARTICLE 19 condemns the raid and closure of the Haatuf Newspaper after it published articles highlighting corruption, and urges the judiciary to reverse their decision.
“We condemn the raid and closure of Hatuuf Newspaper as an assault on freedom of expression and the independence of the Somaliland media. The Somaliland judiciary should immediately reverse their decision and allow the newspaper to resume operation,” said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Director.
“It is never necessary or proportionate under international law to order the closure of an entire newspaper because of one or several articles,” he added. “Doing so via a police raid is equally disproportionate, given the negative effect such an act of state intimidation would have on the entire media.”
Somaliland police stormed the offices of Haatuf following the orders of the Hargeisa Regional Court which had ordered the office to be closed for publishing “false” news. The journalists on duty inside the office fled out of fear.
Ahmed Ali Egge, the editor of Haatuf’s Somali-language version, said armed police raided the newspaper on 7 April as they were preparing the next day’s edition of the newspaper, forcing journalists to abandon their offices and flee.
The court gave orders for the newspaper’s closure for publishing “false and malicious” information about local officials. There was no due judicial process leading to the order, such as for example, hearing the newspaper’s editor.
The newspaper was alleged to have published articles accusing energy minister Hussein Abdi Duale and interior minister Ali Mohamed Waran Ade of corruption and embezzlement.
In the recent past Somaliland has closed media outlets perceived to be publishing stories that are “anti-government”. In 2013 at least 4 media outlets were closed by the government for publishing articles perceived to be anti-government. The year 2014 has not been any different as already 4 media houses have been closed in similar circumstances. For instance on 3 February 2014, the Somaliland Information Minister Abdullahi Dahir Ukuse announced the revocation of Universal TV’s Bureau broadcast license, accusing the station of “insulting” Somaliland leaders.
In December 2013 regional police shut down Hubaal News Network after raiding its headquarters, arresting two journalists. The news agency was accused of publishing stories that were aimed at “dividing police leadership” and “misleading security officers”.
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