Somalia: Press rights advocate under pressure to end media advocacy in exchange for freedom

Somalia: Press rights advocate under pressure to end media advocacy in exchange for freedom

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s government is ludicrously pushing a senior journalist out of media advocacy in exchange for freedom, it has emerged, in what could plunge President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s administration into possible political and social chaos in the coming months.

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Abdalla Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somalia Journalists Syndicate [SJS] was arrested before being released on bail for what the information minister previously claimed: “has nothing to do with his profession”. Several rights groups pushed for his release after the NISA-engineered detention.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Information outlined two conditions for his release from prison, but the demands were outright rejected by SJS and the Somalia Media Association [SOMA]. He is currently out on bail but with an active case where the government wants him to exchange freedom by following certain conditions.

According to SJS, a meeting held on Tuesday between the media advocacy team and the government saw Mogadishu come up with two stringent conditions that if met would see the state drop the charges facing the senior media pundit.

For Abdalla to be free, the government said, he should “cease his media advocacy work and abandon future criticism of the authorities” in addition to the media associations “publishing an apology statement in favor of the Ministry of Information’s position and changing the media advocates’ position to the government’s October 8 directive.” .

Already, the media’s support team has rejected the offer, calling it “unacceptable and illegal”. The groups now want the Banadir court to stop “threats” and “unconditionally drop the baseless and politically motivated charges” against Mumin including the reportedly new charges added last week.

“We express our concern about the ongoing pressure on the court’s judges by the officials of the Ministry of Information, which may result in a travesty of justice,” read the statement of the three media organizations based in Mogadishu.

“We call on the top leadership of the Somali Federal Government to ensure that government officials including those at the Ministry of Information cease the harassment and persecution of Abdalla Mumin and we also call on them to respect and protect freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

Ironically, a month ago, the Ministry of Information was categorical that Abdalla Ahmed Mumin “has no charges related to his work as a journalist” and that he was being held on “security-related charges”. The arbitrary arrests and detentions come days after Amnesty International accused President Hassan Sheikh of failing to curb human rights abuses.

The statement by Amnesty International outlined some of the key work plan areas that Hassan Sheikh and his administration should focus on to get Somalia out of its poor human rights record, which has persisted even after his victory in May. Hassan Sheikh had promised to respect human rights during his campaigns.

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