Puntland Information Minister, Ali Hassan Sabarey speaks during a press conference on Sunday 22 September 2019 in Garowe
Puntland Information Minister, Ali Hassan Sabarey speaks during a press conference on Sunday 22 September 2019 in Garowe. | Photo courtesy/PLTV.

MOGADISU, Somalia, 25 September, 2019 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemns the new oppressive measures employed by the Minister of information of Puntland in Garowe on Sunday 22 September, 2019 against the independent media and journalists, the latest in a string of attacks against the journalists and the media in Puntland.

Minister of Information of Puntland, Ali Hassan Ahmed (Sabarey) instructed journalists and media houses in Puntland to register before 15 October, 2019 under which journalists will be issued with Ministry of Information Identification Cards (ID) during the press conference in Garowe on 22 September 2019.

“We shall vet the journalists and those who qualify will be issued ID Cards,” the Minister said “Any journalist who is caught operating without this ID card will face the law.”

The Minister threatened that any media house or any journalist who does not register will not be recognized as a journalist and the media house will be closed.

The Minister further threatened to target critical journalists whom he called to have been operating from other states in the country.

“There are trouble makers who relay their radio content from another region and the radio’s relay system is in Bosaso and when you visit them you cannot find them. We have close relations with other regional states. There is no where you can escape from us. We will [get you] and bring you handcuffed. Don’t think that someone can be safe in another regional state,” the Minister said.

Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) describes these measures as unlawful meant to curtail the freedom of the press in Puntland. 

“Puntland Minister of Information is wrong to call for registration of journalists and media houses. This is the mandate of the Puntland Media Council which is in operation. We call this Minister to stop these unlawful measures he is proposing,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said.

Journalists and editors in Puntland who spoke to SJS the past two days have expressed fear and uncertainty about what will happen to the free press after the one month deadline expires.

“We are extremely facing fearful situation and we don’t know what will happen to our work should the new measures imposed by the Minister of Information take effect next month,” one journalist in Garowe who asked anonymity told SJS.

“If this government is trying to silence us under the pretext of unnecessary registration, then we don’t know how we can be able to report freely in Puntland,” another journalist told SJS.

SJS also condemns the ongoing threats by Puntland officials against local journalists. Last week local police raided the independent Radio Daljir studios in Garowe and Bosaso following a news report about a prisoner who died in jail over alleged torture. Early this month, Minister Sabarey ordered internet companies to block the independent news website Puntlandtimes.com. Currently one online journalist has fled the state and under these fresh threats by Minister Sabarey, many journalists are under immediate risk of either being arrested or their media houses shut down.

“Journalists should not be threatened with registration and other restrictive actions due to their unfavourable reporting,” Mr. Mumin adds.