New York, September 2, 2004–Police arrested the editor-in-chief of the independent Somali-language daily Jamhuuriya and its weekly English-language edition, The Republican, in the self-declared republic of Somaliland this week. Hassan Said Yusuf was still in police custody today, and local journalists have not been allowed to visit him, according to local sources.
Yusuf was arrested August 31 at his office in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, by police officers armed with a warrant, according to local press freedom organizations. His arrest stemmed from a news article published in Jamhuuriya on August 30 about the Somaliland government’s stance on peace talks in Kenya between neighboring Somalia’s Transitional National Government and warring Somali factions. Somaliland has refused invitations to participate in the talks.
The article suggested that Somaliland’s main opposition party, Kulmiye, took a harder stance against participating in the peace talks than Somaliland’s government, according to local sources.
It is unclear whether Yusuf has been formally charged. His arrest has been condemned by local press freedom organizations, including the Somali Journalists Network (SOJON) and the Press Freedom Violation Monitors.
Yusuf and other journalists working for Jamhuuriya have been targeted by Somaliland authorities before. In October 2003, police detained Yusuf for nine hours in Hargeisa, and accused him of publishing information that was “not good for the government.” In February 2004, police arrested two reporters working for Jamhuuriya at the Somaliland Supreme Court while they were covering the trial of a prominent traditional elder accused of destabilizing Somaliland. The two journalists were held for four hours before being released without charge, according to local journalists’ organizations.
“Arresting a journalist over a news story is unacceptable,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on Somaliland authorities to ensure Hassan Said Yusuf’s immediate, unconditional release, and to ensure that journalists in Somaliland are free to report on matters of public concern without fear of government reprisal.”