MOGADISHU, Somalia 29 January 2022 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) jointly condemn the recent detentions, beating and death threats against journalists in Hirshabelle, Galmudug and Somaliland.
On the evening of Monday 24 January, Hirshabelle police officers in Beledweyne led by Beledweyne police commissioner, Mohamed Hussein Mohamud (Duur-dage), stopped Radio Hiiraan Weyn journalist, Abdullahi Ali Abukar, while on his way to home from work after covering violent protest in the city which was sparked by the deployment of new federal forces from Mogadishu into Beledweyne. After stopping the journalist, the officers harassed and beat him with their guns before ordering him to clear heavy stones left on the middle of the road by the demonstrators that day. Abdullahi was let go after nearly an hour as officers threatened with shooting if he looks back to the officers.
Abdullahi was among seven journalists detained after the police raided and shut down Radio Hiiraan Weyn in Beledweyn on 21 January following the radio’s coverage on a local militia group opposing the regional authorities.
On 20 January, Galmudug’s Guriel police commissioner, Osman Ali Hudey detained two freelance reporters Abdulkadir Abdullahi Mohamed and Mohamed Abdiweli Tohow in Guriel town after they have covered news stories about the recent operations conducted by Somali ‘Gorgor’ commandos deployed into the region by the Federal Government of Somalia. According to the journalists, they were held at the Guriel police station until Saturday night 22 January when they were freed without charges.
On 12 January, Somaliland police in Aynaba detained Horn Cable TV reporter, Ali Adan Dirir after a morning raid on his apartment in Aynaba town following a reporting assignment in which he covered the distribution of drinking water trucking donated by a popular clan elder for the rural families affected by the desert locust and droughts. The police officers also confiscated and damaged the journalist’s camera and laptop. Dirir told SJS that he was interrogated and held at the police station until 15 January when, and without a lawyer, a local judge ordered his release since the police failed to provide adequate charges.
On 4 January, Somaliland intelligence officers detained freelance online journalist Abdisalan Ahmed Awad following a raid on his home in Hargeisa and was held in undisclosed location for five days. According to Abdisalan and colleagues, his arrest followed his postings on social media that criticised Somaliland authorities for jailing Abdimalim Muse Oldon, a local social activist currently detained in Somaliland. He was freed five days later and was not charged.
SJS and SOMA are relived that our colleagues who were detained in Galmudug and Somaliland were all freed. We are concerned that detaining journalists on the basis of their reporting has now become the norm in all regions of the country. This norm has a chilling effect that may restrict the ability of the media to expose allegations of wrongdoings by the authorities including alleged human rights abuses. We jointly call for the end of the culture of impunity for government officials who target journalists in Somalia.
“We strongly condemn the repeated violence against journalists – particularly those in Hirshabelle. We call all authorities to stop targeting journalists for doing their job,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said, “It is unacceptable that arbitrary detentions are now used widely to threaten press freedom in Somalia. These actions together with other types of threats have created a climate of fear and perpetuated impunity in Somalia. Government officials who commit these violations should not get away with it. They must be held accountable.”
“We are concerned about the increased targeting of journalists by authorities in Hirshabelle, Galmudug and Somaliland. We demand the safety of the journalists,” Mohamed Osman Makaran, the Secretary General of the Somali Media Association (SOMA) said. “When journalists are detained, beaten and threatened with violence there will not be free, independent media and the public will not be able to make informed decisions and hold leaders accountable.”