SJS: Attacks and threats against journalists continue with impunity

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SJS is calling for the Somalia authorities to respect the right to freedom f expression and press freedom, investigate press freedom violators.

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is alarmed by the continued and endless attacks and other threats against journalists and media stations in Somalia as the perpetrators of these attacks continue their crimes with total impunity. SJS is calling for the Somalia authorities to respect the right to freedom f expression and press freedom, investigate press freedom violators and bring them to the courts of the law and give journalists safe environs where they are able to report freely and safely without fear of reprisals".

On 28 February 2023, During a meeting with local media directors, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mr. Hassan Moalin Mohamud together with the Permanent Secretary of the ministry Mr. Faysal Adan and the director of the Department of Communication and Awareness Ms. Ugbad Nor ordered the independent media to refrain from interviews and programs criticizing the government. According to journalists who attended the meeting, the Minister instructed the media to “stop discussing the persecution and targeting of SJS Secretary Abdalle Mumin” as the Federal Parliament begun debating Abdalle’s unlawful detention.

On 2 March 2023, Somali police at the Aden Adde International Airport, Mogadishu, briefly detained freelance photojournalist Said Yusuf Warsame who was invited to cover an event to the airport during the arrest. He was arrested at the Airport police station at 10:00am and was released at 1:30pm local time without charges.

On 16 March 2023, al-Shabaab released a video message denouncing independent media, including some local press freedom organizations and journalists. The group described the free press as the “mouthpiece for the enemy propaganda” and blamed the local journalists and press freedom groups as “entities working for the interest of the foreigners”.

On 1 April 2023, Deputy minister of information, Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adaala has ordered a local journalist from Bandhig Forum to halt “until further notice” a scheduled Twitter Space discussion on press freedom and human rights highlight the attacks and persecution against SJS Secretary-General Abdalle Ahmed Mumin. The journalist was among the organizers of the discussion which was scheduled on 5 April. The discussion was later held on time despite disruptions by notorious online trolls.

On 7 April 2023, Mahad Arab Dhiblawe, a national intelligence (NISA) officer operating at the Mogadishu Airport has started targeting SJS Secretary-General Abdalle Ahmed Mumin with threats of physical harm while in Nairobi. Mahad has also threatened journalists at the local media station, Risaala Media Corporation following the station’s broadcast of a lengthy interview with Abdalle Mumin.

On 8 April 2023, Somaliland’s deputy minister of information, Said Hassan Habane issued a directive which bans interviews and talk shows, among other issues, contrary to the culture, the good ethics and religion. This vaguely-worded directive which was sent to local media stations not only curtails the press freedom and the freedom of expression but it also instills fear among the journalists who are uncertain on what to report following the directive.

On 10 April 2023, Following his interview with SJS Secretary-General Abdalle Mumin, Europe-based Somali journalist Mohamud Mohamed Dahir (Mohamud Arab) was forced to remove his video interview which became viral and exposed human rights violations in the Mogadishu detention centres run by NISA. The interview was first published on a Facebook Page run by Mohamud Arab. After the journalist appealed against the decision, the interview was re-posted but with restrictions describing it as "dangerous content or dangerous individual." The restriction has since been revoked due to a second appeal by the journalist. According to the journalist, the Meta decision came after the Somali ministry of information reported the interview as "a dangerous content."

On 16 April 2023, Mogadishu police in Mogadishu arbitrarily detained four local journalists covering for Risaala Media Corporation and 5TV while reporting from the site of a bomb blast in Hamar Jajab neigborhood. The journalists: Mohamed Said Nur (Risaala TV), Qasim Ibrahim Adan (Risaala TV), Mohamud Abdirashid Sofeysane (5TV) and Isaq Rashid (5TV) were held at the Hamar Jajab police station before they were later transferred to the regional police headquarters where they were held for half an hour, according to the journalists and two editors of the affected media stations. The Banadir Regional Police Commissioner, Mahdi Omar Muumin (Mo’alin Mahdi), addressed the journalists to inform them that “the police banned any coverage related to bombing sites in the capital”.

The police commissioner further threatened that he is able to arraign the journalists to the court and charge them with serious crimes for reporting bombing in the capital. He admitted “The Information Ministry has been providing the police with information regarding journalists and media stations whose content is deemed critical.” The police freed all four journalists without charges and their equipment returned.

“The attacks against the press is at a very alarming rate with journalists across Somalia including Somaliland continue to face arrests, threats, intimidation and vague directive which aims to silence the journalists,” Mohamed Ibrahim, President of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said, “We condemn these violations in the strongest terms possible and call for the Somalia authorities to respect the press freedom, investigate and bring press freedom violators and bring them to the courts of the law and provide journalists safe environs where they can report freely and safely without fear of reprisals.”

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