Monday, July 1, 2019

Somaliland bans and censors 2 privately-owned TV stations, Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV, indefinitely and without any explanation.

Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia in East Africa has abruptly banned and censored two privately-owned TV stations in the capital of Hargeisa - Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV - indefinitely, with both that have been taken off air.

Somaliland's minister of information, Mohamed Muse Dirie, who is actually a censorship boss, ordered Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV to stop broadcasting in Somaliland.

No reasons were given for banning Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV but sources said the police accused the two TV stations of "airing content that threatened national security".

Neither TV station was told what the alleged content is that "threatened national security".

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at both Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV, the police entered the offices of the TV stations last week and ordered them to shut down. The police gave them letters signed by Mohamed Muse Dirie, but didn't allow the TV channels' management to keep copies of the letter according to Horyaal 24 TV chairman Mohamed Osman Mireh (Siyad) and Eryal TV owner Adan Aideed Abdi.

"The arbitrary closure of Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV without due process sends the message that Somaliland media operates at the whim of government officials," says Muthoki Mump, Sub-Saharan Africa representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement.

"We call on the government to immediately and unconditionally lift these bans and allow the press to work freely."

While the Hargeisa offices of both stations remain closed, they continue to broadcast from other studios based outside of the region, and their programming is still accessible to Somaliland viewers through satellite TV.

The CPJ's calls and text messages to Mohamed Muse Dirie went unanswered.

Mukhtar Mohamed Ali, the ministry's director-general, told the CPJ that he was in a meeting and could speak later, but did not answer follow-up phone calls later as he also evaded media enquiries.

Abdirahman Libaan Fohle, Somaliland's deputy police commissioner, told CPJ that he did not have information about the shutdown of the TV stations, but said he heard they were closed for incitement.

CPJ called police commissioner Abdillahi Fadal Iman for comment, but his phone was switched off.