Somaliland on spot over detention of journalists

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HARGEISA, Somalia - The Breakaway region of Somaliland has been put on the spot over harassment and arbitrary arrests of journalists in the wake of calls to respect freedoms of speech and media within the federal republic of Somalia.

Somali Journalists Syndicate [SJS] and the Somali Media Association [SOMA], which are the media lobby groups, jointly condemned arrests and attacks against journalists within the region, adding that there is a need to respect the press.

Last week, authorities in Somaliland's Borame town detained Horn Cable TV reporter, Imran Hussein Adan, a day after he covered a vox-pop piece seeking views of ordinary citizens on President Muse Bihi Abdi’s visit to the United States.

The report saw hundreds of people criticize Bihi's delegation, arguing that it was not balanced. Family members said to date, he's yet to be taken to court or released, raising concerns about his health and well-being.

Also, on March 18th, intelligence officers attacked two reporters; Abdisalan Ahmed Awad and Ali Mahdi Jibril as they drove from a hotel in the city center of the capital, Hargeisa. They are said to have been armed with guns and even fired at the car carrying reporters.

“Two vehicles followed us from the hotel. In the midway, one vehicle drove past us and immediately blocked our way. I tried to speak to them but six men got off and begin throwing stones shuttering our windows loudly. The second vehicle blocked the road behind us,” said Jibril who was the driver.

“I attempted to escape but the men in the front shot one bullet. Then they fired two bullets. I was afraid that they may kill us. I stopped the car.” Both Jibril and Awad said they were dragged out of the vehicle as the officers shouted “our mission is not to kill”.

The two lobby groups now want the state to stop harassing and detaining journalists, adding that there is a need to accord protection to members of the press whose main duty is to inform and educate the public.

“It is very worrying that armed government officials are behaving beyond the law to physically attack journalists. We are aware that some of these journalists have been threatened several times for criticizing the president of Somaliland,” Abdalla Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary-General of Somali Journalists Syndicate said.

“This shows the intolerance of the Somaliland presidency towards journalists that criticize its policies.”

“We demand that a full investigation be carried out into the Friday night’s incident in Hargeisa and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also demand the unconditional release of journalist Imran Hussein Adan,” Mumin added.

“Today we express our growing concern about the increased targeting of journalists in Somaliland. We thank God that both journalists Abdisalan Ahmed Awad and Ali Mahdi Jibril survived the attack on Friday night. We urge the Somaliland authorities to honestly investigate the incident and arrest the perpetrators,” Mohamed Osman Makaran, the Secretary-General of Somali Media Association noted.

On press freedom in Somalia, Ambassador Larry André said the United States is committed to supporting freedom of the press globally. “Providing training for journalists and advocating for freedom of expression in Somalia are high priorities for us in Mogadishu,” he said.

GAROWE ONLINE

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