Cablegate: Somalia - Recent Threats to Freedom of the Press

DE RUEHNR #2422/01 3341112
O 301112Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - Recent Threats to Freedom of the Press



1. (SBU) Since the temporary ban of VOA's Somali Service by Puntland
authorities in early October (reftel), Somali media have encountered
a series of additional hardships. Independent media outlets have
experienced closures, arrests, and violence. Among the most notable
incidents was the shooting by Puntland authorities of a VOA Somali
Service stringer in Puntland on November 17. Post remains fully
engaged in advocating for a free and fair press in all parts of
Somalia. End summary.

Problems from

2. (SBU) Since reftel reported on the temporary closure of VOA's
Somali Service in early October, Somali media outlets have
experienced a continuing series of threats to their ability to
practice journalism freely and independently. Chief among those
threats are the unabated efforts by al-Shabaab to either suppress
media altogether or to gain control of existing outlets for use as
Shabaab mouthpieces.

3. (SBU) On October 1, Abdi Nur Abdullahi Abdulle of Radio Voice of
Mudug was arrested by Shabaab in Kismayo, a southern port city,
which has been under Shabaab control for an extended period.
Abdulle was reportedly arrested while covering fighting in Kismayo
between Shabaab and rival Islamist group Hisb al-Islam.

4. (SBU) Al Shabaab ordered the closure of Baidoa's Radio Warsan and
Radio Jubba on October 21, followed on November 1 by Shabaab's
seizure of Radio Warsan, eviction of all staff, and arrest of editor
Muhyadin Husni. According to Radio Jubba owner Abdi Azziz, who is
resident in Denmark, Shabaab officials attempted to convince him to
sell the station to them for USD 25,000. When Azziz refused,
Shabaab seized the station by force. Azziz told us Shabaab would
not let any outlet in Shabaab-controlled regions work independently
or neutrally, and would attempt to force the private stations to
broadcast reports favoring or promoting extremist agendas. Shabaab
seized Radio Warsan and all of its equipment, but Azziz said that
Radio Jubba management had managed to move most of their station's
important equipment secretly to Mogadishu before the station was

5. (SBU) On November 24, Shabaab closed Radio Mandeeq, in Gedo
Region's Beled Hawa. The management of Radio Mandeeq are strong
post contacts and have facilitated some of our outreach activity in
Gedo Region and the bordering area of Kenya. A statement from a
journalist union indicated that Shabaab militia arrived at the
station at about 1215 local time aboard two 'technicals' and,
claiming to be acting on orders, demanded that the station be
closed. Mandeeq had been previously forced to close in April 2009,
reportedly as a result of al-Shabaab's displeasure over the
station's reporting on a clan dispute. We are in close contact with
Mandeeq's management.

Problems from

6. (SBU) In an unusual cross-border scenario, Nuradin Ma'alin
Muqtar, alias Dinow, was arrested on October 18 at an Internet cafe
in Nairobi's predominantly Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh,
possibly for a report implicating the director of the Mogadishu port
in embezzlement. (Note: Another version has it that the Mogadishu
port director or his allies alleged to the Kenyan authorities that
Muqtar was a member of al-Shabaab, thus triggering his arrest. End
note.) He was held for 24 hours and then released after advocacy
from the Somali ambassador to Kenya and another well-known Somali
reporter. Muqtar claimed he was arrested by Kenyan security
officials at the instruction of the director of Mogadishu port, Abdi
Jinow, who was then in Nairobi. Asked why the port director had
called for his arrest, Muqtar said he had previously acted as a
whistleblower, highlighting reports of corruption and embezzlement
involving officials working at the port. He specifically mentioned
two cases involving the port director: a case of a bullet-proof
UNICEF vehicle that had been stolen by al-Shabaab during its capture
of Jowhar, but then allegedly purchased by the director for USD

NAIROBI 00002422 002 OF 002

150,000, and a second case involving houses bought by the director
in Nairobi's exclusive Hurlingham neighborhood. The journalist said
he made a comparison between the ongoing fight against corruption in
Kenya, which is getting much attention from the international
community, and the level of corruption existing in Mogadishu.
Muqtar said that security personnel also questioned him at length
about al-Shabaab and piracy activities in Somalia.

7. (SBU) ETN reporter Abdirahman Muhammad Muse was arrested and
reportedly beaten on November 3 in Garowe. Muse claims he was
covering a court session, although the ETN manager in Nairobi told
us that the police arrested the reporter on suspicion that he was
clandestinely filming a police operation.

8. (SBU) On November 5 in Mogadishu, AFP cameraman Mohamed Dahir and
Universal TV cameraman Mahmud Muktar Kofi were detained, possibly by
TFG authorities, and held for approximately 48 hours after filming
African Union troops firing into Bakara Market. Reports indicate
that Somali MPs intervened to secure their release.

9. (SBU) Muhammad Yasin Ishaq, a stringer for VOA's Somali Service,
was shot and injured by Puntland police on November 24. Reports
from VOA Somali Service and Ishaq himself indicate he was passing
through a police checkpoint en route to the southern part of
Galkayo. Some allege that Ishaq failed to stop at a checkpoint;
others that he stopped and was purposely shot anyway. Some
independent sources, including UN officials, say that the journalist
passed the checkpoint without stopping and was fired upon by
authorities, who were on high alert following an incident from the
previous week when a hand grenade that was thrown from a passing
vehicle wounded some of the security personnel. In a press release,
VOA joined the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters
Without Borders in calling for an investigation.

Problems from
Somalia in General

10. (SBU) On the morning of November 18, Abdirahman Warsame, who
reports for the Chinese news service Xinhua, was injured in
Mogadishu fighting. He was reportedly standing in front of Banadir
Hospital in Mogadishu when he was hit by a stray bullet.

11. (SBU) As has been widely reported, Canadian journalist Amanda
Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were released on
November 25 after being kidnapped and held for approximately 15

Post's Continued

12. (SBU) Post remains fully engaged in aiding the media in Somalia.
We maintain strong relationships with most media houses, which allow
us to get accurate information quickly in the event of an incident,
and we intercede with the authorities, where possible.

13. (SBU) We have also encouraged the TFG to be more vocal about
freedom of press issues. An October 24 statement condemning the
closures of Radios Warsan and Jubba was issued immediately by the
TFG after Somalia Unit suggested to the Minister of Information
that the TFG speak out publicly.


© Scoop Media

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