Somaliland closes TV station, arrests journalists
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Somaliland closes TV station, arrests journalists   | 15.01.2012.

* Government says station broadcast anti-Somaliland propaganda
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* Government says station broadcast anti-Somaliland propaganda

HARGEISA Jan 15 (Reuters) - Somaliland has shut down a private television station it accuses of airing anti-government propaganda, and arrested 13 journalists as they held a protest against the move, a minister said on Sunday.

Minister of Interior Mohamed Nour Arrale said that the government of the breakaway territory had suspended the licence of Horn Cable TV, which was taken off air on Saturday.

"Its activities have been suspended for disseminating anti-Somaliland propaganda which contradicts the freedom of media," he said told reporters, without elaborating.

Journalists in the capital Hargeisa held a demonstration against the closure on Sunday, but police dispersed it and arrested 13.

"Their demonstration this morning was illegal. They have not informed the ministry of interior and we have not given them permission to hold the demonstration," Arrale said.

"One journalist was not only carrying a pistol, but hit a student with the butt of the pistol. This was illegal. We will investigate and release those who are innocent."

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 and has enjoyed relative stability compared to the rest of Somalia. But it has not been formally recognised internationally.

The National Union of Somali Journalists condemned the shutdown and arrests. It said the action against Horn Cable arose from its coverage of a district tribal meeting in which politicians and elders announced an autonomous administration.

"The operations of the private media continue to go hand in hand with sustained harassment, intimidation, arrests and persecution in Somaliland," Ahmed Mohamud Mohamed, an NUSOJ official and a news editor at Horn Cable TV in neighbouring Puntland, said in a statement.

"This act is a blatant misuse of powers by authorities."

The United Nations has in the past expressed its concern about press freedom being under threat in Somaliland and greater Somalia. (Reporting Hussein Ali Noor; Writing by George Obulutsa, editing by Rosalind Russell)

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