MOGADISHU, Somalia 14 April 2022 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) condemn in the strongest terms possible the mass arrest of 16 journalists reporting on the prison shooting in Hargeisa by Somaliland police on Wednesday 13 April.
On midday on Wednesday, Somaliland police and officers from the intelligence service arrested ten journalists: Mohamed Abdi Ilig (senior journalist and director of MM TV); Mohamed Jamal Jirde (MMTV cameraman); Hassan Galaydh (BBC Somali reporter); Sagal Mustafe Hassan (Voice of America reporter); Ahmed Nur Samrawi (Bulsho TV reporter); Ahmed Mohamud Yusuf (Saab TV reporter); Naima Abdi Ahmed (Caro Edeg Media reporter); Ahmed Said Hassan Shimali (Horn Cable TV reporter); Aidarus Mohamed (Goobjoog TV reporter) and Hamzew Abdi Hayd (CBA TV reporter) as they were covering the shooting incident at the Hargeisa central prison. Some of these journalists were reporting live from outside the prison facility.
Police officers accompanied by intelligence unit officers later raided Horn Cable TV studio in the city centre of Hargeisa and detained six more journalists who were reporting about the prison gunfire: Abdijabar Mohamed Hussein (Horn Cable TV reporter); Mohamed Suldan Ahmed (Horn Cable TV reporter); Khalid Mohamed Aleeli (Horn Cable TV reporter); Ayanle Abdi Buni (Horn Cable TV reporter); Mustafa Muhumed Abdi (Horn Cable TV cameraman) and Abdifatah Mohamud Ismail (Horn Cable TV cameraman).
Among the 16 detained journalists, two are female. Seven of them are detained in the headquarters of the national intelligence service while the rest were held at the central police station. Police also confiscated journalists’ camera equipment and phones as part of the crackdown on the journalists reporting on the prison shooting, according to journalists and human rights defenders in Hargeisa.
Late on Wednesday night police released Voice of America’s Sagal Mustafe Hassan and Naima Abdi Ahmed of Caro Edeg Media, according to colleagues and family members who spoke to SJS and SOMA. The reason of their release is not yet clear.
When contacted, Somaliland police and the Ministry of Information declined to speak on the journalists’ mass arrest. However, Head of the Somaliland Custodial Corps, Ahmed Awale told state television that they “would seek legal means against the journalists” who covered the prison incident.
SJS and SOMA strongly condemn the mass arrest of journalists in Hargeisa. While we welcome the freedom of Sagal Mustafe Hassan and Naima Abdi Ahmed, we also call Somaliland authorities to unconditionally free other group of journalists in jail including Abdisalan Ahmed Awad who is held incommunicado since 3 April 2022.
SJS and SOMA reiterate their call to Somaliland authorities that they must understand that journalism is not a crime and it is not a terrorism. It’s an important cornerstone of freedom and democracy. The attempt by Somaliland authorities to control news and information – particularly incidents with public interest – violate the guarantees enshrined in Somaliland Constitution and the international law, in particular, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“We condemn this mass arrest of journalists in Hargeisa. Already into the fourth month of 2022, Somaliland leads the list as the worst journalists’ jailer among all other regional states. This spike in arrests of journalists in Somaliland shows an escalating crackdown on media freedom in that region,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary-General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “Somaliland authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all detained journalists and stop intimidating journalists and media crew for carrying out their journalistic duties.”
“Arrests, repression, and intimidation of journalists have become commonplace in Somaliland. We are concerned that the situation is even became worse to an extend journalists are now telling us that they are not safe” Mohamed Osman Makaran, the Secretary-General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said. “We demand that the perpetrators of these crimes be held accountable for their crimes against journalists and media outlets. We call all the journalists in detention be freed without condition.”