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Media Watchdogs Condemn Brief Detention of BBC Staff in Somaliland


FILE - Signage is seen at BBC offices and recording studios, in London, Britain, May 21, 2021.

The Somali Journalists Syndicate has condemned police in the breakaway region of Somaliland for briefly detaining five journalists with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Saturday. BBC broadcasts in Somaliland remained off the air Monday following a ban imposed last week by authorities.

The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) on Monday called for authorities in the breakaway republic of Somaliland to halt the threats and harassment against BBC staff and journalists.

They also called on Somaliland to unconditionally allow the BBC to resume operations in the region.

Somaliland police in the capital, Hargeisa, raided the BBC Media Action office on Saturday and detained five staff members, according to Somali media defenders.

The media associations identified the arrested journalists as Mohamed Gaas, Abdullahi Jama and Samatar Gahnuug, film editor Ahmed Fa’iz and their transport manager Yahye Ali.

National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman said the shutdown of the BBC office was “an angry response that helps no one.”

“[The] National Union of Somali Journalists see the banning of [the] BBC from operating in Somaliland intimidation and action that doesn’t serve independent journalism,” he said. “We see it as an action that is against freedom of expression that doesn’t also translate the democratic gains that Somaliland has achieved.”

Osman called on authorities to allow the BBC to operate and find ways to resolve issues with the network other than through harassment and intimidation.

Yasmin Omar Mohamoud, chairperson of the Human Rights Center in Somaliland, told VOA by phone that the police detained the BBC staffers “unlawfully.”

“The police arrested five BBC media action staff members, although fortunately, they have [been] released,” she said. “But the arrests [have] been conducted unlawfully and without any court warrant. The problem is arresting people without any wrongdoing, and we are sorry for what happened.”

Last week, Somaliland announced a ban on the BBC, saying the broadcaster had reduced its identity and dignity of the

Somaliland is a self-declared independent republic considered internationally to be part of Somalia.

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