A local journalist held incommunicado in Hargeisa, another sentenced to one year in prison

MOGADISHU (AXADLE) – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA) are concerned about the detention of freelance journalist Abdisalan Ahmed Awad, who has been detained at an unknown location by Somaliland intelligence since April 3, 2022, and verdict on a year in prison against another journalist, Ahmed Jama Hersi for a critical Facebook post.

On April 3, Somaliland intelligence officers detained and beat Abdisalan Ahmed Awad from his home in Hargeisa after he filed complaints against the intelligence officers who attacked and wounded him and another journalist on March 18 in Hargeisa. Colleagues who searched him said they could not find him at the police stations. A local human rights activist told SJS and SOMA that they suspect the journalist is being held in a private, undisclosed location as the law does not allow intelligence officers to detain anyone. Local journalists claimed the detention was carried out by an intelligence unit led by Ahmed Muse, son of President Muse Bihi Abdi.

On February 21, Somaliland police arrested Hargeisa Star TV journalist Ahmed Jama Hersi following a Facebook post that was considered critical of Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi in the middle of his visit to the United States. He was detained until March 28, when the regional court in Marodi-Jeh sentenced him to one year in prison and a fine of 1,000,000 Somaliland shillings ($ 124). According to court documents reviewed by SJS and SOMA, he was alleged to have “published fake news.” Colleagues said Hersi was released a day after the verdict after paying the fine and several hundred dollars extra in exchange for a year in prison.

SJS and SOMA condemn the arrest of the two journalists in Hargeisa. We demand that the Somaliland authorities immediately reveal the whereabouts of journalist Abdisalan Ahmed Awad and investigate the allegations of torture by the arresting officers. Authorities must also release him unconditionally and allow him to pursue legal proceedings against officers who attacked, shot and wounded him during the March 18 attack.

“The attacks, harassment and detention of journalists critically reporting on President Muse Bihi Abdi became the new norm in Somaliland. Last month, two journalists survived an armed attack in Hargeisa. Unfortunately, these attacks are carried by intelligence officials linked to the presidency. We urge the Somaliland authorities to respect press freedom and stop snatching journalists from their homes and streets, “said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS). “We call for immediate freedom for journalist Abdisalan Ahmed Awad and stop harassing him, even if he decides to sue these brutal officers who attacked him on March 18.”

“The imprisonment of Abdisalan Ahmed Awad and Ahmed Jama Hersi is a blatant attack on media freedom in Somaliland. We are concerned that these attacks were now recurring and forced many journalists to flee Somaliland. We remind Somaliland authorities that attacks on journalists are not acceptable. They must not stop it, “said Mohamed Osman Makaran, general secretary of the Somali Media Association (SOMA). “Release Abdisalam Ahmed Awad unconditionally and without delay.”

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