Eryal TV reporter, Khalid Yusuf Hassan (left) and freelance journalist, Busharo Ali Mohamed (right). | PHOTO Credit/ SJS/Combined.

MOGADISHU, Somalia 19 June 2023 – The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) calls for an end to the continuous suppression of journalists by federal and regional authorities, including Somaliland, and urges for the immediate release of all imprisoned journalists. We also call upon the authorities in Mogadishu and Jubbaland to halt their practice of using the fight against al-Shabaab as an excuse to target, detain, and intimidate journalists, both physically and online.

On 15 June 2023, Somaliland’s Maroodi Jeeh Regional Court has decided to extend the police custody of female journalist Busharo Ali Mohamed, (known as Busharo Baanday), who was arrested on 15 May at the Wajaale town while crossing the border from Ethiopia to Somaliland. This is the fifth appearance of the Somali-British journalist in the Hargeisa court since her initial presentation on 17 May. To date, no charges have been filed against her, and the Somaliland authorities have not provided a reason for her prolonged detention.

According to lawyers and colleagues, Busharo’s critical reporting on the declining state of democracy in Somaliland and her description of the current Somaliland leader as “autocratic” are believed to be factors contributing to her continued custody. SJS expresses deep concern over Busharo’s arbitrary and extended detention, as well as reports of her torture by the police, which has resulted in injuries to her face and right leg at the time of her arrest.

On 13 June 2023, Eryal TV journalist Khalid Yusuf Hassan was detained by Somaliland police in Hargeisa. Despite visits from his colleagues to the criminal investigation department in Hargeisa, the police have not disclosed the grounds for his detention, and no charges have been filed against him, according to journalists who spoke to SJS. Eryal TV has stated that they have not been informed of the reasons behind their colleague’s arrest.

Mohamed Kaafi Adan Bishaar, a correspondent for the Jubbaland State TV was detained in Luuq town in Gedo region.| PHOTO Credit/ Facebook.
Mohamed Kaafi Adan Bishaar, a correspondent for the Jubbaland State TV was detained in Luuq town in Gedo region.| PHOTO Credit/ Facebook.

On 8 June 2023, Security forces loyal to the Luuq District Commissioner in Somalia’s Gedo region Ali Kediye Mohamed detained Mohamed Kaafi Adan Bishaar, a correspondent for the Jubbaland State TV after he reported on local elders welcoming a new administration appointed by the Jubbaland authorities for the Gedo region. Mohamed Kaafi told SJS that he was held at the Luuq police station for three days before being released on 9 June without any charges filed against him. Prior to his arrest, armed individuals had also visited his residence. Due to safety concerns, Mohamed Kaafi has since fled the town.

On 5 June 2023, Armed men from the National Intelligence in Mogadishu detained freelance journalist Abdirahman Ahmed Aden, who contributes for the The New Humanitarian. Abdirahman told SJS that young NISA officers stopped him on the road on his way to home. They blindfolded him, assaulted him with their pistol during the interrogation, and revealed their intentions to target journalists affiliated with international media, including him, and at one point threatening to kill him. He was held at the Wadajir police station for eight hours that day as confirmed by Abdirahman and a family member who visited him at the police station. Following the terrifying ordeal, the journalist was released without charges, but not before being cautioned that his journalistic activities would be closely monitored.

On 4 June 2023, Deputy Minister of Information Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adaala made a statement claiming that the Ministry of Information had reached an agreement with Facebook, granting authorities “the power to restrict coverage of content related to al-Shabaab on the social media platform”. Al-Adaala further disclosed that the national intelligence and other undisclosed entities are involved in this concerning collaboration. This announcement follows reports from several journalists who have informed SJS that their news content has been deleted or restricted on Facebook.

On 9 June 2023, A local TV director and a prominent online journalist also notified SJS that they received warnings regarding potential hacking or suspension of their Facebook pages after covering a widely shared incident of a physical attack on a young man with a disability by police officers in Mogadishu. Journalists in central Somalia have also told SJS that their content was removed after reporting allegations of sexual violence against women and girls by the armed militia.  Journalists and media directors have expressed to SJS that the National Communications Authority of Somalia (NCA) is implicated in the censorship and blocking measures aimed at the journalists’ critical reporting.

On 29 May 2023, Jubbaland Minister of Information, Saleban Mohamed Mohamud, announced an oral order imposing additional limitations on local journalists, instructing them to cease providing neutral coverage of the war on al-Shabaab and instead “side with the government and promote government propaganda”.  According to journalists who attended the meeting and media reports, the announcement was made during a meeting funded by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). This move by the Jubbaland minister of information comes in the wake of a previous directive issued by the Federal Ministry of Information in October 2022, which imposed unlawful restrictions on independent media and journalists.

“We are witnessing ongoing attacks on journalists in Mogadishu, Gedo, and Somaliland, which are greatly impacting the operations of a free press in the country. We strongly urge the Somaliland authorities to release journalist Busharo Ali Mohamed and Eryal TV journalist Khalid Yusuf Hassan, who are currently held in police custody,” said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary-General of SJS.

“We also call on the authorities in Mogadishu and Jubbaland to immediately halt their practice of using the fight against al-Shabaab as an excuse to attack, detain, and harass journalists, both physically and online. Social media platforms like Facebook should not be utilized as tools to censor the crucial work of journalists, particularly those who provide critical coverage of the government amid the severe human rights violations perpetrated by all parties involved in the conflict in Somalia, including the Somali security forces, allied clan militias, and al-Shabaab,” added Mr. Mumin, “It is particularly concerning that journalists cannot investigate and report allegations of sexual violence against women and girls from the vulnerable communities living in the conflict-affected regions.   Those responsible for these human rights violations, including attacks on journalists and other abuses, should not be shielded but must be exposed and held accountable, regardless of their position of power.”