VIENNA, Oct 8, 2012 – Security agents in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region shut down a popular radio station in Bosaso on Saturday morning, according to news reports and local journalists.
The authorities accused the station of broadcasting programs that threaten Puntland’s security, but didn’t provide any evidence, according to Mohamed Ibrahim of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).
Horseed FM reported on its website that its director, Abdikani Hassan, met with the Bari region police chief, Col. Osman Afdalow, after the closure and was shown an unsigned and unstamped letter, which the colonel said came from the police chief of operations in the Puntland capital of Garowe.
Hassan said he had contacted the information ministry’s local Bari region branch but he was told they were not aware of any directive to shut down the station. However, the closure was confirmed by the Ministry of Information at a press conference in Garowe later that day, NUSOJ said.
Horseed FM (“Leader”) was founded by members of the Somali Diaspora in the Netherlands in order to promote peace and inform the public. Horseed Media broadcasts online and the FM station in Puntland’s commercial capital, Bosaso, reaches some 300,000 listeners, according to its website. The website, in particular, has carried articles critical of the policies of Puntland’s leadership, journalists told IPI.
“We urge the Puntland authorities to immediately rescind the order to close Horseed FM,” said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “Listeners in Bosaso should have access to a wide range of information and political points of view. Criticism and scrutiny is part of the political process and part of democracy.”
The station has been the target of several attacks over the years. In August 2010, Deputy Director Abdifatah Jama Mire was sentenced to six years in prison for airing an interview with the head of an insurgent group. (He was released several months later and now resides outside the country, reports say). In October 2010, attackers threw a grenade at the radio station, injuring one person, reports said.
Last month, President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole threatened the opposition and the media, according to a report on Horseedmedia.net. The website quoted him as saying: “[W]e allow the opposition if they join a political party, but we will not tolerate those failed politicians and so called websites and media who are supporting Puntland’s enemies including terrorists and Pirates.”