The TFC and the Somaliland constitution provide for freedom of speech and of the press. The Puntland interim constitution provides for press freedom “as long as journalists respect the law.” Nevertheless, journalists were subjected to violence, harassment, arrest, and detention in all regions. The National Union of Somali Journalists reported that four journalists were killed, seven were wounded, and 19 were arrested during the year. It also reported on violent attacks against media houses, as well as the use of defamation laws against journalists.
Freedom of Speech: Individuals in TFG controlled areas were generally not restricted from criticizing the government. However, the speaker of the TFP prohibited the parliament from convening its four month fall session due to fear that members would want to discuss and possibly make changes to the Roadmap for Ending the Transition. In Somaliland and Puntland, individuals generally enjoyed the ability to criticize their governments publicly and privately without reprisal.
Freedom of Press: Print media consisted largely of short, photocopied dailies published in the larger cities. Several of these publications published criticism of political leaders and other prominent persons. In Somaliland there were seven independent daily newspapers and one published by the government. There were two English-language weekly newspapers. There were three independent television stations and one government-owned station.
Most citizens obtained news from foreign radio broadcasts, primarily the BBC’s Somali Service and the Voice of America’s Somali Service, which transmitted Somali-language programs daily. There were reportedly eight FM radio stations and one shortwave station operating in Mogadishu. A radio station funded by local businessmen operated in the south, as did several other small FM stations in various towns in the central and southern areas of the country. As in previous years, Somaliland authorities continued to prohibit the establishment of independent FM stations. The only FM station in Somaliland was government-owned. There were at least six independent radio stations in Puntland. Al-Shabaab continued to operate an FM radio station in Kismayo.
On October 30, Puntland’s president announced he was suspending Universal TV and Somali Channel TV for being obstacles to security. Puntland authorities lifted the ban on Universal TV on December 3, but Somali Channel TV remained closed at year’s end.
ASWJ and al-Shabaab closed broadcasting stations during the year. On June 2, ASWJ raided Dhusamareeb Radio, reportedly in reaction to the station’s reporting on a rift in ASWJ leadership. ASWJ allowed Dhusamareeb Radio back on the air shortly after the incident. On June 22, al-Shabaab militia raided Voice of Hiraan, arrested its staff, and forced the station off the air for five days.
Violence and Harassment: Four journalists were killed in Mogadishu during the year (see also section 1.g.). For example, on December 18, an unknown gunman dressed in a TFG military uniform shot and killed prominent freelance journalist Abdisalan Sheikh Hassan “Xiis” in Mogadishu. On December 13, Hassan had filmed the proceedings of a controversial parliamentary vote to remove Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan from office. After his footage was broadcast on Somali television, he began receiving death threats. The TFG issued a press statement promising to investigate the killing. The TFG had made no arrests by the year’s end.
Journalists and media organizations in Mogadishu reported harassment by the TFG, including detention without charge and assaults on persons and property. On March 27, TFG security forces arrested Shabelle Radio manager Abdirashid Omar Qasse and news director Abdi Mohamed Ismail “Oud” in connection with the station’s March 22 report that TFG President Sheikh Sharif had yet to visit areas of Mogadishu cleared of al-Shabaab during a recent offensive. The TFG claimed it arrested the journalists for “broadcasting news that misrepresented the situation in Mogadishu and was detrimental to national security.” Authorities released the journalists on March 30 after they reportedly apologized to the deputy minister of information.
Somaliland police arrested and beat journalists (see also sections 1.b. and 1.e). For example, on September 19, they beat and briefly detained Mustafe Sheik Omar Ghedi, editor of Saxafi newspaper, for taking pictures of citizens resisting forceful eviction in the Goljano neighborhood of Hargeisa. On October 27, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists, Somaliland police in Hargeisa beat Mohamed Abdi Kahin “Boosh,” who worked for Ramaasnews online news and the private station Royal TV, for taking pictures of protests.
Puntland continued its harassment of journalists, typically blaming arrests on the need to protect the region’s security interests (see also section 1.a.). For example, on November 15, Puntland security forces raided, without warrants, the private residences of Somali Channel TV cameraman Mahad Abdi Ali in Garowe and reporter Saido-Kin Ahmad Jama. They took Mahad Abdi Ali to the Garowe central police station for questioning. Saido-Kin Ahmad Jama, who learned of the raid beforehand, was in hiding at the time of the raid. The two had apparently covered a subclan conference in Taleh, Sool Region, after Puntland authorities banned the station from operating. Authorities released Mahad Abdi Ali on November 16 on bail paid by the Media Association of Puntland.
Journalists were also attacked and injured in Puntland. For example, on August 26, a grenade attack on the privately owned Radio Daljir injured a security guard and damaged the station. On October 18, unknown assailants threw a hand grenade at the Radio Galkacyo station.
In November 2010 Puntland’s president pardoned Abdifatah Jama Mire, the director of Horseed Media. Puntland forces arrested him in August 2010 for broadcasting an interview with a Muslim extremist leader.
Al-Shabaab and other extremists continued to harass journalists. Journalists reported that al-Shabaab threatened to kill them if they did not report positively on antigovernment attacks.
There were no arrests made in connection with previous killings or the attempted killing of journalists.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists engaged in rigorous self-censorship to avoid reprisals from governments and al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab banned journalists from reporting news that undermined “Islamic law” as it interpreted it and also told persons in areas it controlled that they were forbidden to listen to international media such as the BBC and Voice of America.
Libel Laws/National Security: Both the TFG and Puntland administration cited national security concerns to justify their suppression of criticism. For example, during a July 2 press conference, Puntland’s president threatened journalists with arrest if they broadcast reports the administration considered harmful to Puntland’s security.
Authorities in Somaliland prosecuted journalists for libel. For example, on January 23, a court in Hargeisa sentenced Waheen editor Mohamud Abdi Jama to three years of incarceration and a fine for libel in regards to a story involving a state electricity company manager hiring persons from his own clan.
Somaliland senior officials and ministers used their positions to harass journalists who reported on official corruption. For example, in December 2010, then chief of cabinet Hersi Ali (who was the minster of the presidency at year’s end) accused the Hargeisa Star and its chief editor Hassan Mohamed Yusuf of publishing false reports of excessive expenditures regarding a London trip by Somaliland president. Somaliland authorities summoned and briefly detained Hassan Yusuf; Hersi Ali later withdrew the charges against the newspaper and its editor in January.
Nongovernmental Impact: Al-Shabaab inhibited freedom of expression, including of the press.