Washington, D.C., December 22, 2009 – The Voice of America (VOA) condemned the arrest of stringer Mohamed Yasin Ishaq in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region, and called for his immediate release.
Ishaq told VOA’s Somali Service he was taken into custody Sunday after heavily armed vehicles operated by the government’s Puntland Intelligence Services (PIS) surrounded his house. Before his cellphone was taken away, Ishaq said he was transferred to PIS headquarters in Garowe, Puntland’s capital.
"We call for the immediate release of Mohamed Yasin Ishaq," said Steven J. Simmons of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the VOA and other U.S. international broadcasters. "We are deeply concerned by the injustice of a reporter being repeatedly targeted for reporting the facts."
VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch said Somali officials have not publicly stated any reason for taking Ishaq into custody, although his arrest came shortly after he filed a report on internally displaced Somalis.
“Ishaq was doing his job, which is to file accurate stories of interest to our audience,” Redisch said.
Ishaq’s arrest was the second time he has been singled out by Puntland officials. In November, he suffered a minor chest injury after police in Galkayo opened fire on his car at a police checkpoint.
The Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based organization that monitors attacks on journalists, says violence soared in 2009 in Somalia where nine local journalists were murdered or killed in combat situations.
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 approximately 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 and are intended exclusively for audiences outside of the United States.
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