Somaliland blocks 5 popular websites for ‘fake news’

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Somaliland blocks 5 popular websites for 'fake news'

The crackdown of online media has been a major concern for journalists based in Somaliland who have also seen waves of arrests and intimidation by local authorities in recent months.

By Jamal Ibrahim, jamal@alleastafrica.com

HARGEISA – The breakaway northern Somalia republic of Somaliland Egypt has blocked five websites, accusing them of spreading false news and inciting tribal conflicts, a move which was heavily criticized by journalists and rights groups that who warned that the new restrictions would further restrict freedom of expression.

Individual websites had been inaccessible in the past four days but there was never any official admission by local authorities.

The crackdown of online media has been a major concern for journalists based in Somaliland who have also seen waves of arrests and intimidation by local authorities in recent months.

However, Mohamed Dirir, the editor of Saylactoday.com described the blockade on sites including his website as a ‘deliberate harassment’ against journalists considered to be reporting not in favor of the government.

“The government is now using individuals disguised as media campaigners who are painting us as news fakers. They are betraying us.” he said, vowing that he’d not compromise their journalistic values.

Meanwhile, Mustafa Amir, a popular blogger based in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital whose site is included five sites blocked by the government alleged that the local Somaliland Association of Journalists (SOLJA) is involved in the new media crackdown, and blockade of news sites in collusion with the government.

“We are being betrayed by those who were supposed to defend us.” he told Alleastafrica.

No comment could be reached from SOLJA on the development.

For years, there has been a tense relationship between the government and independent media. Government officials often accuse journalists of supporting and promoting anti-government sentiment, leading to the arrests of dozens of journalists in recent years.

Rights groups and media watchdogs have repeatedly urged Somaliland to ensure that independent media outlets are not harassed, and to allow journalists to practice their profession without fear of retaliation.

(Additional reporting and editing by Judy Maina, in Nairobi, Kenya)

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