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Cablegate: Somalia - Voa Somali Service Banned in Puntland

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNR #2116 2791338
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 061338Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1245
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA
RUZEFAA/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUZEFAA/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHMCSUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS NAIROBI 002116

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM KPAO SO
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - VOA Somali Service Banned in Puntland

1. (SBU) Summary: On the evening of October 1, the regional
Government of Puntland, in two separate edicts, banned FM radio
stations in Puntland from carrying Voice of America's (VOA) Somali
Service and banned journalists from carrying out their work for VOA.
The suspension remains in effect as of mid-day October 6. Post is
engaged with the Government of Puntland in an effort to reverse the
suspension. End summary.

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Motives for Suspension
----------------------

2. (SBU) On October 1, the Government of Puntland's Minister of
Security, Dr. Abdullahi Si'id Samata, ordered all FM stations to
cease broadcasting Voice of America's (VOA) Somali Service programs.
The letter, an informal translation of which Post forwarded to AF
and VOA, further stated that "To ensure adherence to this order, the
security agents and regional heads are being instructed to ensure
full compliance." The letter claimed that on August 29, VOA had
falsely alleged that some Somali politicians were detained in
Galkacyo, which the Minister said was "purely untrue." "The
intention [of the VOA report] was to destabilize the security of
Puntland ...," the Minister continued. The letter also cited a
September 30 report claiming that the moderate Islamic group Ahlu
Sunna wal Jama'a (ASWJ) had set up an office in Garowe, which the
Government of Puntland apparently found objectionable.

3. (SBU) On the same day, the Deputy Minister of Information,
Abdishakur Mire Adan, issued a letter banning three reporters -Nuuh
Muse Birjeeb, Mohamed Yasin Isak, and Abdikadir Mohamed Nunow- from
reporting for VOA in Puntland. The letter further stated that "This
order will also affect anyone else attempting to do reporting for
VOA within Puntland Region."

4. (SBU) Post registered directly with the Office of the President
of Puntland our concern about the closure. Late in the evening of
October 5, the Government of Puntland e-mailed a letter (forwarded
to AF) stating that the suspension was due to VOA reporters having
"violated [the] code of conduct of news broadcasting in Puntland by
selectively interviewing anti-law-and-order individuals and
politically motivated elements ..."

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Reactions
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5. (SBU) The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the National
Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), and Reporters Without Borders
issued statements condemning the closure. All cited the threat to
freedom of the press, with no specific focus on VOA as a U.S.
government-supported media outlet. The owner of one of VOA Somali
Service's FM partners condemned the Puntland Administration's
decision, but stated that he had no choice but to comply, fearing
that his equipment and station would be destroyed in retaliation for
continuing to broadcast VOA. The same station is filling the time
formerly used to broadcast VOA with debates about freedom of the
press and discussions about the motives of this action against VOA.
For its part, VOA issued a statement on October 5 condemning the
closure.

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Post Response
-------------

6. (SBU) At the request of VOA, the Somalia Unit has made no public
statement to date. However, we have registered our concern with the
Puntland Administration. In an October 5 meeting with Somalia Unit,
Puntland's Minister for Women said she was encouraging President
"Faroole" not to permanently close VOA, but she insisted that the
ban was necessary to show VOA that it should not report on
"unhelpful and dangerous things." In an October 6 conversation,
President "Faroole's" Chief of Staff insisted that the banned VOA
reporters were "not professional," and that their broadcasts were
filled with inaccuracies. He hoped that VOA would replace the
ousted reporters with staff that were less "linked to their clan,"
and that VOA would be "more impartial" in the future. We asked that
our concerns over the ban be passed to President "Faroole," and
underlined the importance the USG attaches to freedom of the press.
We requested that "Faroole," who could not be reached by telephone
on October 6, be available for a telephone call on October 7.
HOZA

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