Radio journalist detained in Hargeisa, Somali Parliament officials threaten media over controversial sexual bill coverage

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 15 September 2020 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) condemn the detention of freelance radio journalist, Ilyas Abdi Ali by the Somaliland police in Hargeisa on Monday 14 September, 2020, meanwhile, we call for officials at Somalia’s Federal Parliament to cease threats and intimidation targeting journalists and media houses who covered the Monday’s heated debate in the Lower House.

On Monday evening 14 September, police in Hargeisa detained journalist Ilyas Abdi Ali who simultaneously freelances for the Mogadishu-based independent Radio Kulmiye and the Nairobi-based humanitarian Radio Ergo. According to colleagues and journalists in Hargeisa, Ilyas was detained over a Facebook post calling for the release of Abdimanan Yusuf, the owner of Astaan TV, a local subscription-based cable TV service provider, who remains detained in Hargeisa since 17 July, 2020.  On Tuesday 15 September, a court in Hargeisa granted the police seven days of remand in custody for journalist Ilyas pending investigation, according to family and colleagues.

“Any form of Attack against  journalists is unacceptable and Somaliland authorities should immediately release journalist Ilyas Abdi Ali,” Mohamed Abdiwahab, Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said “Ilyas is a humanitarian journalist and his arrest not only represents a threat to the journalists in Somaliland but also constitutes rights violations.”

Whereas, SJS and SOMA are concerned by the threats and intimidations levelled at journalists covering the Lower House of the Somali Federal Parliament, following a heated debate on the controversial sexual bill on Monday. We call for the officials at the Speaker’s Office to withdraw their threats of suspension against the media houses who covered the event.

“We are concerned that officials at the Parliament are threatening media houses with suspension for only covering a public debate in the Parliament. This must stop and media houses should be able to continue their coverage of the Parliament without any condition,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “The Parliament is the core branch, which oversights the country’s democratic institutions, and only through the independent media, will the public know about what legislations are being processed or debated.”

Separately, on Tuesday 8 September, police at Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport blocked two journalists from Somali Cable TV, who were on assignment to cover an opposition politician returning to the country. According to the journalists, when they have asked for clarification, the police cited instructions from the Ministry of Information. However the officials at the Ministry of Information denied that they have given such instructions.

Meanwhile, Universal TV reporter, Khadar Rigah has been released on 12 September without charge after spending five days in Las Anod police cell over his coverage of a protest in Las Anod town.