Journalists close their mouths with fingers as a protest in Jowhar town on 8 February, 2021.
Journalists close their mouths with fingers as a protest in Jowhar town on 8 February, 2021. | PHOTO / Courtesy / SJS.

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 11 February 2021 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemns the recent acts of arbitrary arrests, intimidation, censorship through threat of violence and physical assault against journalists and committed by members of security forces and officials in Galmudug, Puntland, Hirshabelle and Mogadishu.

On 11 February 2021, a plain-clothed NISA officers in Hodan district in Mogadishu detained freelance cameraman with Anadolu News Agency, Sadaq Mohamed Mohamud while collecting vox pops from the public on the impact of Covid-19 in Mogadishu. He was briefly held at Hodan police station in Mogadishu before he was released without charge on the same day, according to Mohamud and a colleague who visited him at the police station.

On mid-day of Monday 8 February 2021, two NISA officers armed with pistols raided Somali Cable TV studio in Mogadishu and detained two staff members: cameraman Sayid Ali Abdi and driver Ali Malaq who were preparing to leave for an assignment. According to journalists at the station who spoke to SJS, the pair was held at Godka Jila’ow for an hour on allegation that they were secretly filming the notorious NISA detention facility, which is adjacent to the TV station, a colleague and Malaq told SJS after their release. They were freed without charges and no further explanation was given. This was the second raid by NISA on Somali Cable TV since May 2020.

Somali Cable TV reporter, Liban Abdulle Mohamed in Jowhar. |Photo by Liban Abdulle Mohamed/ SJS.
Somali Cable TV reporter, Liban Abdulle Mohamed in Jowhar. |Photo by Liban Abdulle Mohamed/ SJS.

On 8 February 2021, Hirshabelle’s Middle Shabelle Chamber of Commerce official physically assaulted Somali Cable TV reporter, Liban Abdulle Mohamed in Jowhar town and hit with a gun. The official threatened to kill the journalist due to his reporting of 4 February story that covered a gunfire near the Jowhar airport which left a Kat trader dead and another one injured. The journalist reported the assault to the Jowhar police station but no action was taken until today, according to Mohamed and two colleagues who accompanied him to the police station.

On 4 February 2021, Puntland’s Governor of Bari, Abdisamad Yusuf Mohamed (Abwaan) physically assaulted and hit SBC TV journalist Yusuf Mohamud Yusuf with stick before briefly detaining him at the southern police checkpoint in Bosaso. Yusuf, who also free-lances for the Voice of America radio, was on assignment to cover the welcoming of the Somaliland-based Sheikh Mustafe Ismail Harun that day in Bosaso. According to SBC TV director, Mohamed Dek Abdalla, the Governor’s bodyguards threatened Yusuf with gun and even fired one bullet during the physical assault, which was captured in a video recording on the scene.

SBC TV journalist Yusuf Mohamud Yusuf pictured after he was assaulted by Bari Governor in Bosaso on 4 February 2021. | Photo/ Courtesy/ SJS.
SBC TV journalist Yusuf Mohamud Yusuf pictured after he was assaulted by Bari Governor in Bosaso on 4 February 2021. | Photo/ Courtesy/ SJS.

On 3 February 2021, Galmudug police in Wisil district in Mudug region briefly detained free-lance journalist Sadaq Said Nur of CBA TV during an assignment to cover local community protest in Hero-Dhagahley village in east of Mudug region. According to Nur, the armed police arrived after he interviewed elders and community members who protested against the appointment of a new administration in that area.  The journalist was released after he was forced to delete the footage of the protest and the interviews taken from the elders to automatically kill the story, Nur and his editor told SJS.

CBA TV free-lance journalist Sadaq Said Nur. | Photo / Sadaq Said Nur / SJS.
CBA TV free-lance journalist Sadaq Said Nur. | Photo / Sadaq Said Nur / SJS.

On 31 January 2021, NISA officers arrested free-lance online reporter, Nune Ali Hassan from KM4 junction, Mogadishu where he and other journalists were covering the aftermath of a deadly car bomb and gun attack in Afrik Hotel in Mogadishu.  He was held at unmarked private house in Wardhigley neighbourhood until the evening of 1 February when they dropped him in an empty road in Wardhigley and left him.

On 29 January 2021, Galmudug police in Abudwaq town in the central region of Galgadud briefly detained journalist Mahad Bashir Osman, the founder and editor of Sooyaal TV which is an online TV a day after he uncovered the complaint of the family of a young pregnant woman who was reportedly raped and murdered on the outskirts of Abudwaq in late December 2020.  In Osman’s report, the victim’s mother called for justice after reports emerged that inter-clan elders negotiated and agreed to pay 50 camels as a blood money to the victim’s family. The journalist was freed late on the same day of his arrest without charge.

Sooyaal TV journalist, Mahad Bashir Osman during his reporting on 28 January 2021. | Photo / screenshot from Facebook video.
Sooyaal TV journalist, Mahad Bashir Osman during his reporting on 28 January 2021. | Photo / screenshot from Facebook video.

On 6 and 8 February 2021, eight journalists covering the Lower House of the Somali Federal Parliament for local and international media were harassed, intimidated and their photos taken without consent by plain-clothed NISA officers who were deployed at the Parliament Building. Four of the eight affected journalists told SJS that at least three NISA officers with pistols approached them and threatened with unspecified consequences during interviews with opposition-affiliated Members of Parliament.  They also said that they had noticed that the NISA men were taking photos of the journalists’ faces with their mobile phones.

“We condemn the recent violent attacks, unlawful arrests and raids against journalists in Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Mogadishu. It is extremely stressful period for journalists in Somalia. Targeted attacks, arrests and violent threats— mainly committed by known security officers and officials with total impunity— have become the norm,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the secretary general of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said,

“While the work of journalists remains vital for the Somali public in this specially important moment ahead of the elections, we are, however, concerned that authorities in various states have shown no respect for the rights of the journalists and that they continue to target and endanger the lives of reporters. We call for all leaders in the country to protect journalists and respect the constitutionally granted freedoms, including the freedom of speech,” Mumin adds.