In an effort to prevent independent coverage, Somaliland jails 16 journalists reporting on prison shootings in Hargeisa

MOGADISHU (AXADLE) Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA) strongly condemn the mass arrest of 16 journalists reporting on the prison shooting in Hargeisa by Somaliland police on Wednesday 13 April.

On Wednesday afternoon, Somaliland police and intelligence officers 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 covered the shooting episode in Hargeisa Central Prison. Some of these journalists reported live outside the prison facility.

Police officers accompanied by intelligence unit officers later raided the Horn Cable TV studio in the center of Hargeisa and detained six more journalists reporting on prison shots: 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 are two women. Seven of them are detained at the National Intelligence Service headquarters, while the rest were detained at the Central Police Station. According to journalists and human rights defenders in Hargeisa, police also confiscated journalists’ camera equipment and telephones as part of the repression of the journalists who reported the prison shooting.

Late Wednesday night, police released Voice of America Sagal Mustafe Hassan and Naima Abdi Ahmed from Caro Edeg Media, according to colleagues and family members who spoke to SJS and SOMA. The reason for their release is not yet clear.

When contacted, Somaliland’s police and information ministry declined to comment on the journalists’ mass arrest. However, Ahmed Awale, head of the Somaliland Custodial Corps, told state television that they “would seek legal action against the journalists” who covered the prison incident.

SJS and SOMA strongly condemn the mass arrest of journalists in Hargeisa. While welcoming the freedom of Sagal Mustafe Hassan and Naima Abdi Ahmed, we also call on the Somaliland authorities to unconditionally release other groups of journalists in prison, including Abdisalan Ahmed Awad, who has been incommunicado since 3 April 2022.

SJS and SOMA reiterate their call on the Somaliland authorities to understand that journalism is not a crime and it is not terrorism. It is an important cornerstone of freedom and democracy. Somaliland authorities’ attempts to control news and information – in particular incidents of public interest – violate the guarantees of Somaliland’s Constitution and international law, in particular Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We condemn this mass arrest of journalists in Hargeisa. As early as the fourth month of 2022, Somaliland leads the list as the worst prisoner of war among all other regional states. This increase in arrests of journalists in Somaliland shows an escalating repression of media freedom in that region said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), “Somaliland’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all detained journalists and stop intimidating journalists and media teams to carry out their journalistic duties.”

“Arrests, repression and intimidation of journalists have become commonplace in Somaliland. We are concerned that the situation has worsened to an extent, journalists are now telling us they are not safe” Mohamed Osman Makaran, Secretary General of the Somali Media Association ( SOMA) said: “We demand that the perpetrators of these crimes be held accountable for their crimes against journalists and the media. We urge all journalists detained unconditionally.”

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