A court in Hargeisa city, located in Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland, ordered on September 4 the blocking of Hadhwanaag news website, while Puntland’s government blocked on September 3 Puntland Times news website. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in condemning both rulings as an attack on press freedom.
The Somaliland court blocked Hadhwanaag news following the publication of a report critical with the Somaliland Central Bank and its governor, Ali Ibrahim Jama ‘Baghdadi’, who submitted a lawsuit against the media.
Following the governor’s request, the court ordered the internet service providers to block access to the news site.
The court justified the blockade of the news website arguing that it published “baseless” articles and interviews damaging the reputation of the Central Bank governor, Ali Ibrahim Jama ‘Baghdadi’, and accusing him “misuse of public funds”.
“The blocking of the website has denied many people in Somaliland access to information which is tantamount to a denial of basic human rights, including freedom of expression and press freedom,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, adding that many journalists are being prosecuted by Somaliland authorities for their “investigative reporting on corruption”.
In addition to this case, Puntland’s authorities announced on September 3 the shutdown of Puntland Times, a regional news outlet, giving no justification and taking action before referring the case to justice.
The editor of Puntlandtimes.com, Farah Abdulkadir Geylan told the NUSOJ that he had not been informed officially about the decision and affirmed he did not know the reasons that justified the blockade. Puntlandtimes.com had been reporting recently on complaints by workers of the Ministry of Information who denounced salaries non-payment.
The IFJ said: “We condemn the blockade of news websites in Somaliland and Puntland regions. The IFJ urges authorities to respect freedom of information and stop harassing critical media. The blockade of Hadhwanaag News and Puntlandtimes.com must be lifted”.