The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has condemned the arrest and detention of Universal TV journalists and the shutting down of its offices in Mogadishu by security agencies last week.
In a statement to the media, CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes said the National Intelligence Service Agency, NISA, acted in violation of the constitution of Somalia and breached freedom of the media in the Horn of Africa country.
“We condemn the arrests of Abdullahi Hersi and Awil Dahir Salad and the suspension of Universal TV,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “We call on Somali authorities to stop this arbitrary harassment of journalists and respect freedom of the press, as called for in the country’s constitution,” added Rhodes.
CPJ joins a number of local and international organisations and individuals who have condemned and called for the release of the journalists. British envoy to Somalia, Harriet Mathews yesterday expressed her concerns over the manner in which the two journalists were arrested and subsequent closure of Universal bureau in Mogadishu.
“I don’t think it is sending a good image to Somalia in the direction of Somalia. I very much hope they will be released soon but most of all due process should be followed and should be seen to be followed,” said Mathews.
The National Union of Journalists, NUSOJ has also lashed out at the government for what it termed as outright violation of freedom of speech and expression. In a statement Sunday, the Union called on the government of Somalia to release the journalists unconditionally.
“The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the arrest of the Universal TV anchor Awil Dahir Salaad and its East Africa director Abdullah Hersi and the closure of the TV offices, which is a blatant act of violation against the press freedom and freedom of expression, while NUSOJ calls for the Federal government of Somalia to unconditionally free the journalists and allow the television offices to resume operation,” read the statement in part.
The two journalists were arrested on September 30 a day after airing a debate in which the guests, who are lawmakers in the Federal Parliament made statements to the effect that Somalia was under the rule of the UN and the presence of AMISOM troops proved the country was not sovereign.
The UN special envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay has also voiced his concerns noting ‘Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and is essential to create an environment that fosters debate and public participation in the 2016 electoral process and Somalia’s ongoing state-building and peace-building process.
Authorities in the semi-autonomous southern state of Jubbaland suspended all Universal TV broadcasts in the region in August, by cutting the broadcast signal, alleging the station incited public hostility.