VOA: Somali stringer released from jail

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Voice of America broadcast service said Wednesday that a Somali stringer who had been jailed without charges since late December has been released.

The VOA stringer, Mohamed Yasin Isahaq, had been held in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, the broadcaster said.

“Mr. Isahaq is an excellent journalist and we join his colleagues and his family in welcoming his release,” Gwen Dillard, director of VOA’s Africa Division, said in a statement from Washington.

On Dec. 20, the Somali government’s Puntland Intelligence Services surrounded Isahaq’s house with armed vehicles and took him into custody, VOA said.

His arrest came days after he reported a story for VOA on the plight of internally displaced Somalis in and around the southern part of Galkayo, Puntland.

In November 2009, Isahaq suffered a minor chest injury after police in Galkayo shot at his car at a police checkpoint.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed concern about what it calls a “deteriorating situation” for journalists in Puntland and the rest of Somalia. CPJ’s Africa Program coordinator Tom Rhodes has praised Isahaq as one of “the best journalists “working in the region.

VOA’s Somali service broadcasts 3 1/2 hours of radio programming daily, seven days a week, aimed at Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa region.

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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On the Web:

Committee to Protect Journalists on Somali reporting dangers: http://www.cpj.org/africa/somalia/)

Voice of America’s Somali report on the Web: http://www1.voanews.com/somali/news/.