MOGADISHU, Somalia, 06 July 2021 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) vehemently condemns the recent arrests of journalists in Mogadishu (Banadir), Beledhawo (Gedo), Beledweyne (Hiiraan) and Las’Anod (Sool) by police and NISA officers amid violations of the law repeatedly against the work of independent journalists in Somalia, as we call on the authorities in Dolow district of Gedo region to release detained journalist Mohamud Mohamed Sheikh.
On Thursday, 1 July, armed police raided Bandhiga Radio in Hamar Jajab district of Mogadishu and detained five people in the radio: three journalists and two interns. While the interns were immediately released, the three journalists: Ibrahim Abshir Hassan, Ilyas Daud and Ibrahim Sheikh Hussein were held at the Hamar Jajab police station until later in the evening. Upon their release, they told SJS that the police officer who raided their radio were looking for the radio management following the landlord’s complaints about a dispute related to the tenant’s agreement. Although they were all acquitted without charge, it was not clear why the three journalists were detained and taken to the police station. The radio station remains shut since then.
On Saturday, 3 July, officers from the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) in Beledhawo, Gedo region arrested journalist Mohamud Mohamed Sheikh, who reports for Star Media Network, a radio and television station based in Nairobi, Kenya. According to two family members interviewed by SJS, officers informed Mohamud that he had been arrested on the orders of Beledhawo District Commissioner, Abdifatah Arog and NISA Commander in Gedo, Bakal Koke.
On the afternoon of Sunday, 4 July, Mohamud was secretly transferred to another prison in Dolow district, on the Somali-Ethiopian border. His family contacted government officials in the area and were informed that Mohamud had been arrested for criticising the Somali Federal government’s administration in Gedo, according to his brother Ahmed Mohamed Sheikh interviewed by SJS. While Mohamud remained in custody and his phone confiscated, family members noticed that his Facebook page was active with a new post at midnight of 6 July. The post, which has been reviewed by SJS, states how Mohamud was arrested in Beledhawo and transferred to Dolow and that “he had been on hunger strike”. Police and officials in Beledhawo and Dolow declined to comment when contacted by SJS.
On Sunday, 4 July, Hirshabelle police briefly detained RTN television reporter, Hussein Abdi Jimale, in Beledweyne and held him in a police cell for four hours following his interview with local youth members who opposed the leadership of the State of Hirshabelle. According to Hussein and two other colleagues interviewed by SJS, the officers acted on the orders of Governor of Hiiraan, Ali Osman Jeyte. Hussein has been released without charge on the same day but told SJS that threats and intimidation against him continues after his release.
On Monday 5 July, Somaliland police officers in Las’Anod detained freelance journalist Barkhad Mohamed Bashe after covering a protest by a local women group who complained that their sons were arrested by the police in Las’Anod and transferred to Borame prison for wearing the Somali flag outfit, while celebrating the 26th June which marks Somaliland’s Independence Day. Barkhad and another journalist who visited him in police custody told SJS that he was released on Tuesday 6 July on the condition of not reporting any news critical to Somaliland. He was not charged.
“We condemn these recent arrests against journalists in Gedo, Hiiraan, Sool and Banadir regions. We call on the authorities in Dolow district of Gedo region to immediately and unconditionally free journalist Mohamud Mohamed Sheikh (Lafagari) and stop intimidating him for reporting events in the region, including alleged abuses committed by NISA and other security personnel,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said.
“While the country heads to an election period, it is unfortunate that attacks, arrests and threats against journalists and independent media personnel become unbearable. We remind both national and regional state officials of their responsibilities to permit the work of the independent press. Officers who commit violations against the constitutionally-granted freedoms including the freedom of the press and expression must be held to account,” Mumin adds.