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Puntland: Free Ailing Journalist, Reopen Radio Station

By National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
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MOGADISHU, Somalia, April 4, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is deeply worried about the health condition of journalist Awke Abdullahi Ali, Director of Radio Voice of Peace in Bossasso, who is ill in Bossasso prison.

On the evening of 3 March 2012, Puntland police arrested the journalist in Bossasso, after shutting down the radio station at around 10:30pm the same day, according to his colleagues at the station.

Awke Abdullahi Ali was not officially charged with any offence in court and it is unlawful in Puntland to detain someone for more than 48 hours without charge. Journalists working with the station told NUSOJ that Ali is ill due to poor prison conditions at the facility in Bossasso.

“We call on the Puntland authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Awke Abdullahi Ali, whom we believe is wrongfully detained,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

"Radio Voice of Peace was not engaged in anything more than telling two sides of the story as required by professional journalism and must not be punished on this basis".

The management of the radio station also reported that police took equipment such as mixers and computers, and locked up the studios, although Puntland authorities agreed to return the equipment.

NUSOJ urges Puntland to allow unimpeded operation for journalists and media houses, including Radio Voice of Peace.

“This radio station should be reopened and this ailing journalist freed immediately,” added Osman.

Puntland officials did not publicly state the motive behind the arrest and subsequent detention of Ali as well as the shutting down of the radio station, but journalists believe that the authorities were angered by the radio station's broadcasting of an interview with Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Mus'ab, who is the spokesperson of Al-Shabaab militias.

The militia has been fighting Puntland forces in the Gal-Gala neighborhood in the suburbs of Bossasso. The radio station also interviewed the Puntland government spokesperson.