SJS condemns recent multiple journalists’ arrests in Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Somaliland; raid on radio Hiiraanweyn and the threats from regional state leaders, Somalia, 24 January 2021 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemns the recent multiple arbitrary detentions against journalists working in Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Somaliland; the raid on Radio Hiiraanweyn and the verbal threats by Puntland and Galmudug regional state leaders amid increased crackdown on journalists and independent media houses.

On 16 January, Somaliland police in Borame detained four journalists: Husein Ateye Gaafane (Universal TV); Abdillahi Dahir Waeys (SAAB TV); Ahmed Diriye Iltire (SBC TV) and Shu’eyb Mohamed Kahin (Bulsho TV) after reporting unannounced tripby the Mayor of Borame City, Saleban Hassan Hadi amid an ongoing audit investigation on the Borame City Council, according to the journalists. They were not charged and were all freed without condition on Wednesday 20 January.

On the morning of Wednesday 20 January, five armed men from the security detail of the Vice President of Hirshabelle State, Yusuf Ahmed Hagar raided the premised of Radio Hiiraanweyn in Beledweyne, harassed the radio staff and later detained journalist Omar Muhidiin Omar over allegation that he created a Facebook Page used to criticise the Hirshabelle State Vice President, and allegation that the journalist refused. According to Omar himself, after 24 hours in police custody, the journalist was arraigned at Hiiraan Regional Court without a lawyer. He was later set free due to insufficient evidence to charge him on Thursday 21 January.

On Wednesday 20 January, Galmudug police arrested two journalists: Mohamed Abdiwali Tohow (Universal TV and Radio Kulmiye) and Abdullahi Warsame Roble (SNTV) in Dhusamareb. According to the journalists and an Galmudug Information Ministry official who spoke to SJS, the arrest was ordered by Galmudug State Presidential officials due to the journalists’ recent reporting on al-Shabaab attacks in Galgadud region. Both were freed on Thursday 21 January without charges.

On 13 January 2021, Somali police officer blocked and beaten Radio Simba reporter, Mohamud Nur Mohamud while covering a bomb blast in Bakaro market, Mogadishu that day. According to the journalist, he dropped the assignment and returned back to the radio station.

On 17 January 2021, while addressing newly trained police force in Qardho, the Puntland State President, Said Abdullahi Deni warned critics on social media with legal action saying that “Puntland police will arrest those insulting government officials on Facebook and those using Facebook to incite the public or call for uprising and murder”. The President further threatened that “police will impose criminal charges on them wherever they go or live”.

On 19 January, during a public address in Galkayo, Galmudug State President, Ahmed Abdi Kariye Qoorqoor threatened journalists and media houses with undefined consequences “for reporting and exaggerating al-Shabaab attacks: He said “those who exaggerate the menace caused by the terrorists are like the terrorists and we are at war with them”.

“SJS condemns the arrests of journalists in Dhusamareb, Borame and Beledweyne. We are deeply concerned by the increased cases of arbitrary arrests against journalists across the country ahead of the proposed general elections,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Scretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said, “We also condemn the threatening calls from Puntland and Galmudug leaders as we call for them to retract their comments meant to suppress freedom of the press and to censor the journalists’ ability to report independently.”

“We would like to remind local authorities- at federal and regional levels- to respect rights of journalists and uphold freedom of the press as a core constitutional right,” Mr. Mumin says. (END)