Somali police attack, beat journalists and confiscate equipment
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) strongly condemns the harassment, beating, shooting and confiscation of equipment against Al-Jazeera and Reuters journalists shortly after an assignment in Mogadishu on Monday 04 November, 2019.
Jama Nur Ahmed, Al-Jazeera Arabic correspondent; Abdinasir Abukar Hared, Al-Jazeera cameraman; Omar Siyad, driver; Mohamed Ali Dahir, Al-Jazeera crew assistant; and Feisal Omar, Reuters journalist were returning from an assignment at Aden Adde International Airport where planes carrying humanitarian aid for the floods-affected regions in the country landed. Two pick-up trucks with armed police officers stopped the journalists’ car and immediately began harassing, beating and fired several bullets into air while pointing guns at the journalists, the journalists told Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS).
“We were driving through Zobbe junction when the two pick-up trucks with heavily armed police officers encountered us. Initially they pointed their guns at us and ordered our vehicle to be veered off the traffic but we told them that there was no space due to the heavy traffic,” Feisal Omar, Reuters photojournalist told SJS “It seems they recognized us as journalists after they have seen our cameras so they increased the harassment and fired into air while pointing the guns towards us. ”
Al-Jazeera Arabic correspondent, Jama Nur told SJS that one police officer pointed his pistol at him and threatened to shoot as a second officer attempted to forcibly open the driver’s door. When other journalist colleagues shouted for help, more officers came and threatened to shoot.
“The first officer wanted to take me out of the car but my door was locked, he then went the driver’s side and attempted to open the door but I held the driver’s hand firmly so they could not snatch him,” Al-Jazeera TV correspondent, Jama Nur told SJS “The officer was loudly telling other officers that we were journalists and we were recording a video of the police which we did not do. They confiscated two of our cameras.”
The Reuters photojournalist, Feisal Omar and Al-Jazeera cameraman, Abdinasir Abukar sustained slight bruises due to beatings. The two Al-Jazeera cameras were later returned to the journalists, according to Jama Nur Ahmed.
Contacts at the Ministry of Information of the Federal Government of Somalia and the police chief’s office did not respond to SJS’s phone calls and text messages seeking response.
“We condemn the attack against our colleague journalists in the strongest terms possible,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said. “Journalists are not enemies, but are messengers and their attack is not only a violation against press freedom and freedom of expression but also constitutes a human rights violation.”
“Journalists are increasingly facing threats and attacks with no accountability from the state security forces. We call on the federal government of Somalia to immediately launch an investigation into the matter and bring the officers responsible of this attack to justice” Mr. Mumin added.
Last week, the Somali police briefly detained and damaged cameras of five local journalists covering public transporters’ protest in Mogadishu’s KM4 neighborhood. Radio Kulmiye journalists- Farhan Mohamed Hussein and Yonis Duran Ali and their cameraman Yahye Haji Olad were arrested alongside with Universal TV reporter, Ahmed Ali Barre and Goobjoog reporter, Ali Adan Mumin were released on the same day without charge.
In a separate incident targeting journalists, Puntland armed police assaulted, kicked and confiscated equipment of three local journalists in Badhan town in Sanaag region on Tuesday, 29 October. The journalists – Radio Daljir reporter, Mohamed Hassan Dhalo, Horn Cable TV reporter Abdiaziz Abdullahi Hassan and SBC journalist, Mohamed Ahmed Agta were physically attacked by the police while covering a news conference by clan elders in a hotel in Badhan.