Washington, D.C., October 5, 2009 - The Voice of America condemns the indefinite ban on reporting imposed on three VOA journalists by the government in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia.
"This represents censorship and a serious blow to press freedoms and cannot be tolerated," said Voice of America Director Dan Austin. "Our journalists all over the world follow the guidelines laid out in the VOA charter; reporting that is accurate, objective and comprehensive. I urge the Puntland government to reverse this suspension immediately."
Puntland's Deputy Minister of Information Abdishakur Mire Adan issued a letter late last week, banning three VOA reporters - Nuh Muse, Mohamed Yasin, and Abdulkadir Mohamed - and any other VOA journalist from working in the region. The deputy minister also ordered all VOA affiliate FM stations to cease airing VOA programs.
"Access to information is a basic right enshrined in the 60-year-old
Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Steven J. Simmons of the
Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees U.S. international
broadcasting including the Voice of America. "It is a tragedy that
those most in need will be deprived of essential news and information
by these actions."
On Friday, Puntland Security Minister General Abdullah Samara also wrote a letter, describing VOA reports in the region as "negative" and inciting "instability."
Chief of VOA's Somali Service Abdi Yabarow believes the decision to suspend VOA broadcasts came after the service aired an interview with Sheikh Sayid Khalif, a moderate Sufi Muslim leader who told VOA he had opened an Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama'a branch in Puntland. The Sheikh went on to condemn the extremist practices of Al-Shabab and other hardline religious groups in Somalia. Several weeks ago, Puntland officials briefly detained reporter Mohamed Yasin after he reported that the former governor's son had killed a man in broad daylight.
Yabarow said, "We ask Puntland authorities to allow the free flow of information. For the last two years, VOA journalists have reported the news fairly and accurately in Puntland, where we have many listeners. We also urge officials to allow our affiliates to do their jobs and broadcast our programs."
VOA's Somali Service broadcasts three hours and 30 minutes of news and information programming daily, 7 days a week on AM, FM, shortwave and the Internet at www.VOANews.com/Somali.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages. VOA is the leading U.S. international broadcaster.
For more information, please call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail email@example.com.