(From left) MM Somali TV founder Mohamed Abdi Ilig, Chanel 4 News freelancer Jamal Osman and Radio Cadaado founder Sharma'arke Mohamed. | PHOTO/ Combined/ SJS.
(From left) MM Somali TV founder Mohamed Abdi Ilig, Chanel 4 News freelancer Jamal Osman and Radio Cadaado founder Sharma'arke Mohamed. | PHOTO/ Combined/ SJS.

MOGADISHU, Somalia 20 February 2024 – The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is relieved that MM Somali TV founder and journalist Mohamed Abdi Ilig was freed from jail on Sunday after a court in Hargeisa ruled his innocence while we are concerned about the actions of Puntland authorities to detain and block Chanel 4 News reporters in Garowe.

MM Somali TV founder Mohamed Abdi Ilig gained his freedom on Sunday after enduring 43 days of imprisonment, initially held in a detention facility operated by Somaliland national intelligence before being transferred to police custody. The Maroodi Jeex Regional Court ruled that Ilig was innocent instantly freeing him. He was unlawfully detained on 6 January, 2024, following his hosting of an online debate on the Somaliland-Ethiopia Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

In Puntland, SJS strongly condemns the obstruction and brief detention of freelance journalist Jamal Muhumed Osman and his female producer, who work for UK’s Channel 4 News, on Sunday, February 18, in Garowe, Puntland State. Despite being accredited and assured of their security, Jamal and his producer arrived in Garowe that Sunday to work on interviews for their documentary program on the Red Sea crisis. However, they were stopped at the Garowe Airport and subsequently held in custody in the city before being released later that evening. Their journalistic assignment was impeded when they were forcibly flown back to Ethiopia on Monday 19 February, preventing them from fulfilling their journalistic duties.

This marks the second instance of journalist Jamal facing restrictions in the country, with a previous incident occurring in December 2022 at the Mogadishu airport.

On Thursday, 15 February, police in the town of Cadaado in Galmudug briefly detained Sharma’arke Mohamed, founder and journalist of the local private Radio Cadaado. His detention followed a Facebook post where he advocated for justice for two businessmen who were recently shot dead in Dhusamareb town. Sharma’arke was released a few hours after his arrest, thanks to the intervention of local authorities.

While SJS welcomes the release of Mohamed Abdi Ilig, we urge Somaliland authorities to thoroughly investigate the officers responsible for the detention and physical assault of MM Somali TV journalists on 6 January. It is essential that those responsible are held accountable and brought to justice. Additionally, we advocate for the unrestricted coverage of all issues of public interest by journalists from independent media outlets, including viewpoints that may be critical of the authorities.

“We are deeply concerned by the actions of Puntland authorities in Garowe, where despite initially accrediting Chanel 4 journalist Jamal Osman and his producer, they were subsequently blocked and detained. Independent journalists like them play a crucial role in raising international awareness about pressing security issues such as the Red Sea crisis, which require collective solutions. We urge Puntland authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this incident and address it promptly,” said Secretary-General, Abdalle Mumin.

“We strongly condemn the detention of Sharma’arke Mohamed in Cadaado, and we call on Galmudug authorities to uphold the freedom of the press by allowing media outlets and journalists to report on community grievances regarding injustices and violations of the right to justice,” added Mr. Mumin.