World Press Freedom Day banner. | PHOTO/SJS/SOMA.

MOGADISHU, Somalia 3 May 2022 – On World Press Freedom Day, Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) jointly call authorities in Somaliland to release three detained journalists in Hargeisa as we call for authorities in other regions of Somalia to respect of press freedom and protect journalists.

Attacks on Somali journalists continued in the first four months of 2022. SJS and SOMA statistics from January to April 2022 show 37 arrests throughout the country. Majority of the journalists’ detentions took place in Somaliland (23 detained). Three journalists (Mohamed Abdi Ilig of MM TV, Abdirahman Ali Khalif of Gobonimo TV and Abdijabar Mohamed Hussein of Horn Cable TV) are currently incarcerated in Somaliland after they were detained on 13 April for reporting the Hargeisa prison shooting. Hirshabelle State detained seven journalists, Galmudug arrested three while police in Mogadishu detained four reporters.

SJS and SOMA raise their grave concern on the illegal access of journalists’ phones by Somaliland intelligence officers. About seven of the recently detained journalists confirmed that intelligence officers have beaten them and demanded each of the journalists to surrender passwords of their phone devices enabling officers to access journalists’ social media accounts, phone communication logs and emails.

We also condemn the restrictions and blocking of independent media and journalists seeking to observe and report on the process of the indirect elections in Somalia as we express serious concern at the repression and threats against journalists dealing with allegations of irregularities, harassment of candidates, bribe-giving and looting of seats in Mogadishu and in the federal Member States.

Journalists in Mogadishu, Hirshabelle, the South West, Jubbaland, Puntland and Galmudugu have faced systematic restrictions as they have been denied access to information related to the electoral process, monitoring of polling stations and also investigating profiles of candidates running for parliamentary positions. 

Electoral authorities in Mogadishu and regional states have used security forces, including National Intelligence and Security Agency officers, federal and regional police officers, as well as election staff, to prevent journalists from covering the election campaigns of opposition candidates and allegations of delegate-buying and malpractices including phony contestants, barring access and right to contest of certain candidates.

During the recent election of the Somali Parliament Speaker, Haramcad police officers and officials from Villa Somalia blocked and threatened journalists accessing the Afisyoni hangar in Mogadishu. Officers who carried this blatant violation are still carrying out their duties without any accountability.

“Today, marking World Press Freedom Day in Somalia is a reminder for authorities that they should respect press freedom and protect journalists. Somali leaders – whether in Mogadishu or in the federal member states or in Somaliland – failed to uphold their commitment to press freedom and protection of journalists,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “A free press and access to information are a human right that contributes to a society built on accountability and transparency. We demand accountability for those who involved in the violations against press freedom.”

“As we mark World Press Freedom Day, SJS and SOMA strongly condemn the attacks and violations against media freedom and the journalists. We call Somaliland authorities to free three jailed journalists in Hargeisa,” Mohamed Osman Makaran, the Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, SJS and SOMA would like to urge members of the international community to continue to advocate for the protection of journalists in the country and support media freedom as part of their efforts to build a peaceful, stable and democratic Somalia.