Amid worsening press freedom situation, Puntland and Somaliland carry out multiple journalists’ arrest

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 09 September 2020 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) strongly condemn the multiple arrests against journalists and the judicial and police harassment by Puntland authorities in Garowe and Somaliland authorities in Hargeisa, Erigavo and Las Anod towns during the past few weeks amid a worsening press freedom situation.

On Sunday 6 September, Nugal Regional Court judge, Abdinur Jama ordered the arrest of two Radio Daljir journalists, Abdiqani Ahmed Mohamed and Khadar Awl after they visited the court complex in Garowe, the capital of Puntland. The journalists were pursuing a follow-up story of murder and rape case that took place in Garowe months ago.  According to the journalists and colleagues, both were released on Monday 7 September on a condition that they would be summoned back once the prosecutor prepares their charges.

“We condemn the judicial and police harassment and arbitrary arrests against Radio Daljir journalists which goes against both Puntland and Federal Constitution which guarantee the freedom of expression and that of the press,” Mohamed Abdiwahab, Secretary General of SOMA said, “Puntland authorities should stop pressing charges against the duo who only reported on stories that matters on public interest.”

In Las Anod town, Somaliand police on Monday 7 September detained Saab TV reporter, Abdifatah Mohamed Abdi after reporting the destruction of city roads by the recent rains. The Mayor of Las Anod, Mr. Abdiaziz Hassan Tarwale, reportedly ordered the arrest. According to the journalist, he was freed on Tuesday morning 8 September without charge.   However, Las Anod police on Tuesday morning 7 September arrested another journalist, Universal TV reporter, Khadar Rigah a week after his coverage of a protest by the local businesswomen against the recent demolition of business structures and taxes hike by the city administration.  The journalist is still held at the police station.

In Hargeisa, Eryal TV journalist Liban Osman Ali and Wajaale News website reporter, Abdiqadir Habane were freed without charges after spending six and three days respectively in the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), according to Ali and Habane.  Ali was arrested on 23 August after he interviewed a woman detained and held at the Hargeisa prison without charge for wearing an outfit made of Somali flag while Habane’s detention on 24 August was related to a story about local businesses he wrote a year and half ago.

In Erigavo, Somaliland police arrested Badda Cas TV reporter, Said Muse Farah on 25 August barely three weeks after he covered the local community’s protest against higher water prices in Erigavo. According to the journalist, he was freed on bail on Thursday 3 September.

“It’s outrageous that journalists are repeatedly arrested, bullied through judicial and police harassment only for covering matters of public interest. This sends a chilling message that reporting of any story with a public interest is a red line for the local authorities. We condemn these latest violations against the press in Somaliland and in Puntland,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said, “We call for the Somaliland authorities to free detained journalists, stop intimidations and persecutions and allow journalists to freely exercise their profession without fear of reprisals.”