Somalia: Spy agency under fire to release detained journalist, two months after arrest


MOGADISHU, Somalia - Local Journalists in Mogadishu has commenced campaigns to have a detained reporter in Mogadishu released, almost two months after his arrest and unprecedented detention.

Mohamed Abdiwahab Abuuja was arrested on Feb. 27 but has never been presented in the court of law for prosecution, contrary to Somalia's federal constitution which provides for the right to a fair hearing.

Since that time, a group of activists said, he had been bungled in Mogadishu prison, even though he's yet to be convicted. He was picked and detained by spy agency NISA - National Intelligence and Security Agency.

Already, a group of activists started collecting signatures in a petition for the journalists' release, which will be deposited in the office of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

A fortnight ago, Farmajo used his presidential decree to pardon 148 prisoners, due to coronavirus pandemic. Surprisingly, the journalist was not among them, despite the fact that he's never been convicted.

The move was in line with precautionary measures to decongest the country's crowded prisons. So far, the country has recorded 137 positive cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths, the health department said.

The petition has gained momentum on social media forums, with hundreds of people accusing Farmajo of perpetuating "impunity" in total disregard of the law. Villa Somalia is yet to respond to the damning allegations.

NISA, which is run by Fahad Yasin, a former Al-Jazeera Arabic journalist, is synonymous with controversy. For instance, a report published by Garowe Online, showed its unscrupulous deals with Al-Shabaab, in a bid to undermine KDF troops in Somalia.

Abdullahi Hassan, a security analyst from the Horn of Africa, wondered why FGS was quick to denounce the damning allegations against NISA, but could not act against reports on the draconian mistreatment of the reporter.

Somalia is one of the most difficult countries for one to work as a journalist around the world. In a report published by Amnesty International dubbed "we live in perpetual fear", both FGS and Al-Shabaab were linked to harassment, torture, arrests, and execution of reporters.

NISA, the report added, collaborates with Facebook administrators to delete accounts associated with "radical" reporters with an aim to silence them. Also, the agency trails abduct and detain those who don't toe to its demands. Some are killed, it added.

Just last week, police in Mogadishu arrested Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye, a senior editor with GoobJoog Media, for allegedly publishing "defamatory" information about Farmajo. He was released on bail on Saturday after mass protests in the capital.

Early this month, the agency was subjected to immense criticism from a host of leaders among them former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, after labeling renowned VOA journalist Harun Maruf "a danger" to national security.

Maruf, the agency claimed, "had acted outside his jurisdictions". It vowed to have him charged. Marun has been running a series of documentaries under his program "Investigative Dossier" which as since exposed FGS as a major partner of Al-Shabaab.

According to Amnesty International, over 20 journalists have sneaked out of Somalia in as many years, following threats from NISA and Al-Shabaab. At least six have been brutally killed within the same duration, it added.


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