Crackdown targeting journalists, media defenders on the rise in Somalia

A media rights group in Mogadishu says it is worried about a crackdown against journalists in the country which they say is on the rise. 

The Somali Journalists Syndicate said it is extremely concerned by the rise of physical threats, harassment and arbitrary detention against journalists working in Somalia forcing some of the media workers to begin fleeing the country for their safety.

The organization said it was particularly concerned by the arrest and continued detention of journalist Hashim Omar Hassan, a reporter for Shabelle Media Network, who has spent a second day in detention, on unknown charges.

According to Hashim and colleagues, he was held at the Adado police station under the orders of the regional president. 

Adado district police chief Mohamed Adde, who executed the detention order, arrested the reporter at midday on December 3, in Adado district, where the journalist is a correspondent for a loal television. 

Other Sources indicate that Hassan’s family members have been prevented from going to the police station where they could have obtained information about his status.

He was later freed without charges.

The group also noted that officers from the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) who were at the gate of the House of the people stopped journalists and threatened with ‘death or imprisonment’ if they ask lawmakers questions about the Villa Rays hotel attack. 

According to the media rights defenders, local reporters from several television stations who were covering the parliament sitting were scared from pressing questions about the hotel attack.

Mohamed Ibrahim, the President of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemned the illegal arrests of journalists without court orders. 

“We condemn these latest attacks on the journalists in the strongest terms possible and call for both the federal government and the federal member states to stop attacks against journalists and allow the independent media and their journalists to carry out their duties without threats and detention,” said the head of the organization. 

“The federal government and the federal member states should create a safe environment where journalists can exercise their profession without fear or reprisals. It’s unfortunate that journalists are now fearful in their country and are resorting to either self-censorship or leaving the country.” Mr. Ibrahim added.

The rights defender also documented a sharp rise in the number of journalists leaving the country as a result of threats related to their reporting. 

Six journalists (three of them female reporters) have fled the country to different countries including Turkey and Kenya. 

According to the group the journalists said they decided to flee into exile as the pressure and threats from the authorities grew and crackdown on the free press has made the situation untenable.

This comes at the backdrop of events in October, where NISA unlawfully detained SJS Secretary-General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin at the Mogadishu airport following a joint press statement released by the media advocacy group on the new government directive. 

He was held at the notorious Godka Jila’ow for two days before he was jailed at the criminal investigation department for another 10 days before he was released on bail.

He is currently out on bail and is facing severe restrictions imposed by the ministry of information of the federal government of Somalia.

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