Journalists blocked from covering elections in Somalia

MOGADISHU (AXADLE) Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA) condemn the restrictions and blockade of independent media and journalists seeking to observe and report on the process of indirect elections in Somalia; and expresses serious concern at the repression and threats against journalists dealing with allegations of irregularities, harassment of candidates and looting of seats in Mogadishu and in the federal Member States.

Journalists in Mogadishu, Hirshabelle, the South West, Jubbaland, Puntland and Galmudugu have been subjected to systematic restrictions as they have been denied access to information related to the electoral process, monitoring of polling stations and also the investigation of profiles of candidates running for parliament. .

Electoral authorities in Mogadishu and regional states have used security forces, including officials from the National Intelligence and Security Agency, federal and regional police officers as well as election personnel, to prevent journalists from covering opposition candidates’ election campaigns and allegations of delegate purchases and fraud, including fraud. right to compete for certain candidates.


In Jubbaland, intelligence officers affiliated with President Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe)’s office summoned 13 journalists on December 20 and instructed them to keep away any coverage of election conflicts and complaints. A senior Jubbaland intelligence officer called ‘Basaam’ had threatened journalists with dire consequences if they had to report complaints about the results of the election of the lower house’s seats in the state. On December 28, a group of journalists covering the choice of undercover seats in Kismayo’s Daawad hall were threatened with arrest and beatings, and their camera equipment was taken to prevent journalists’ independent coverage that day.

Oppression and intimidation prompted journalists in Kismayo to resort to self-censorship for fear of possible detention, torture or even death. SJS and SOMA documented five cases of journalists, some of whom fled Kismayo, while others chose to refrain from reporting election-related issues or reports that could irritate the Jubalian authorities.


In Hirshabelle, police officers in Jowhar, led by Police President Hassan Dhi’isow, called by telephone and threatened Tusmo TV reporter Abdirahman Shamcun after the journalist posted a video on his Facebook containing the complaints of Shiidle elders from the Bantu minority community. Shiidle elders complained that the selection of their two seats had been abused and accused Hirshabelle President Ali Abdullahi Hussein (Gudlawe) of undermining the delegate selection process. According to the journalist, Hirshabelle police spokesman Diini Roble called the reporter Shamcun the same day and asked where he was, and an hour later NISA and the police called the journalist’s headquarters in Jowhar. The journalist fled, however, after his family advised him to leave.

Beledweyne journalists have been denied access despite the state’s indirect election team’s obligation to accredit journalists. Reporters in the city were stopped and harassed on February 20 when the vote in a parliament contested by former NISA commander Fahad Yasin took place in the city. Local journalists reported that they were blocked from the hall as they approached as the roads in the city were closed on the day when most traffic was blocked and public movement restricted by the Gorgor and Haramcad forces. A rival candidate protesting against the election process was prevented from speaking to the media, although a Mogadishu-based media later broadcast the protester’s speech.


In Mogadishu, independent media and their journalists were not allowed to cover the course of the lower house elections for the Somaliland clans in Mogadishu from late January to February. Journalists said that even though they had been given an admission card during the election to the Upper House, they were informed by the election staff that journalists could not come to the Hangar inside Mogadishu Airport, where the voting took place. NISA officers and police locked the place to prevent journalists from entering the hall. Journalists cited the fact that the process was murky and some legitimate candidates were not allowed to compete, as the reason for blocking independent media.


In the South West State, journalists have given up their intention to cover the election to the lower house of the regional state as in November due to the pressure, repression and intimidation of Southwestern officials. The threat came into effect in late October 2021 when Baidoa Airport police targeted and detained eight local media journalists who were at the airport to report an election campaign conducted by an opposition candidate. On February 16, NISA officers entered a hotel in Baidoa, where an opposition candidate for parliament held a press conference and ordered journalists out of the hotel by threatening to beat and arrest them.

Journalists said the southwestern parliamentary election process was largely controlled by relatives and family members of southwestern President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed (Laftagaren) and had armed security forces to threaten journalists and block independent media access to polling stations or places where clan delegates met. .

In Barawe, on February 17, the chairman of the Southwestern state parliament, Ali Said Faqi, had instructed NISA officers in Barawe and his personal bodyguards to arrest journalist Osman Aweys Bahar, who works for the community-owned Radio Barawe. That was a day after the journalist published a video interview with Mr Faqi. The interview, conducted by journalist Bahar, included critical questions about Mr Faqi’s (now elected) role in “neglecting the electoral process in the Southwest and blocking rival candidates.” On February 24, a police officer informed Bahar that there was a case. against him was brought to Barawe police station by unnamed officials.


Puntland officials held the election for the lower house inside military bases in Garowe and Bossaso. Journalists said live TV coverage has been blocked and a small number of journalists are gaining access to the 54th Division military camp in Garowe. Opposition figures were not allowed to be interviewed. In Bosaso, the base of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) was used as another polling station to which local journalists did not have access.


In Galmudug, NISA officers blocked independent journalists from covering the voting process in Dhusamareb. Journalists’ access was particularly blocked on 14 February during the election of Abdullahi Kulane, a former NISA officer, and on 25 November during the election of the current acting NISA chief, Yasin Farey. Journalists in Dhusamareb had been instructed not to interview candidates who complained about the irregularities in the process. Journalists said NISA officers loyal to Abdullahi Kulane and Yasin Farey approached reporters and ordered them to leave as they interviewed female candidates protesting the mistreatment taking place in Dhusamareb.

“Somali leaders have failed to maintain their commitment to allow journalists to observe and report on the electoral process. Journalists across the country have been denied access, threatened and some even forced to flee their hometowns. Now the question is about the legitimacy of a parliament and a government formed out of this obscure process where journalists were threatened and independent coverage blocked, ”said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, general secretary of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS).

“We condemn the restrictions, intimidation and threats posed to the Somali media community across the country. We demand accountability from those involved in these violations and access to journalists and media coverage to inform citizens,” Mohamed Osman Makaran, Secretary The General of the Somali Media Association (SOMA) said.

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