ARTICLE 19 is concerned with the increase in arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists in Mogadishu, Somalia. In the last month 32 journalists have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and most released without charge. The Somali government must stop harassing journalists and uphold its constitutional obligation of protecting freedom of expression.
“It is becoming increasingly alarming the way the Somali government is applying pressure on journalists and the media to close down important public interest debates. National security concerns should not be used to stifle freedom of expression and the media should be allowed to ask uncomfortable questions,” noted Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director.
On 3 September, Somali Independent Media Houses Association (SIMHA) Chairman and Director of Dalsan Radio, Hassan Ali Gesey, and staff member Abukar Moheydin Hashara were arrested by the Somali intelligence agency in the capital Mogadishu. ARTICLE 19 monitors in Mogadishu suspect their arrests are linked to a press statement by SIMHA condemning an order issued by the Ministry of Interior prohibiting the media from covering any issues related to Al Shabaab. They were later released without charge.
On 15 August, Somali security forces raided and shut down Radio Shabelle and Sky FM Radio in Mogadishu and arrested 19 journalists and staff working for the two stations. Most journalists were later released expect radio station owner Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud, Sky FM director Mohamud Mohamed Dahir, and Shabelle deputy news editor Ahmed Abdi Hassan who the government said will be charged with allegedly inciting violence. Journalists who visited those in custody reported that the detained journalists had been tortured. The stations resumed broadcasting on 19 August.
On 17 August, 11 journalists who were attending a press conference organized by opposition leader Ali Mohamed Nuh in a Mogadishu hotel, were taken into custody for more than three hours before being released and subsequently ordered to report to the Somali Intelligence headquarters every Wednesday. The only crime they had committed was to cover the opposition’s press conference.
“These instances amongst others show intolerance by the Somali government. Use of national security will have dangerous consequences for the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in Somalia, creating a hostile and intimidating environment and discouraging those who could reveal uncomfortable truths and hold those in power to account,” added Maina.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Somali government to respect the free expression rights of journalists and stop intimidating them for simply doing their job. We call on all actors within the government, media and civil society to work together to address the difficult security situation while adhering to the principles of democracy.