We, the undersigned local and international press freedom and human rights organizations, call for the immediate release from prison of Abdi Farah Nur, editor of the weekly newspaper Shacab in Somalia’s self-declared autonomous region of Puntland. Local journalists believe his detention is linked to critical articles in Shacab about the Puntland leadership and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Police forces in Garowe arrested Farah on June 19, after he resumed publication of Shacab, which the Puntland government had ordered suspended. He was not brought before a court until June 23, in violation of his right under Puntland law to a hearing within 48 hours. When he appeared in court, the presiding judge questioned him on why he had resumed publication of the newspaper, and the journalist replied that he had done nothing wrong, according to local sources. The court ordered his transfer to a top-security prison for an undetermined period, pending investigations.
Farah, who has not been charged with any crime, is being held incommunicado, according to his colleagues and friends. They say that a colleague who tried to visit him was assaulted and threatened by security forces guarding the prison.
His arrest comes after a number of serious attacks on the staff and the premises of Shacab. In April 2005, security forces attacked the newspaper’s offices, breaking the front gate and damaging the editor’s car and other property, according to the newspaper’s editor and local press freedom groups. The same month, Farah and reporter Abdirashid Qoransey were detained, tried, and acquitted on charges of incitement and insulting the president. Those charges were based on a mid-April article suggesting that citizens with complaints about the Puntland government contact their representatives in Parliament, and a reader’s letter criticizing authorities, according to Farah.
On May 5, the Puntland government ordered Shacab “temporarily suspended” for an undetermined period for publishing unspecified articles that it claimed could lead to unrest. A presidential decree issued after a cabinet meeting cited the government’s constitutional responsibility to uphold the unity of Puntland. Fearing arrest at that time, Shacab decided to suspend publication while seeking to contest the ban via legal representation and negotiation. However, all of those efforts failed, according to the newspaper’s management.
The undersigned local and international groups believe that Farah is being held in violation of his right to work as a free and independent journalist, as guaranteed by Article 20 of the transitional federal charter of Somalia, which Puntland signed, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call for our colleague’s immediate and unconditional release. We also call on Your Excellencies to ensure that journalists in Puntland and the rest of Somalia can work freely, without fear of reprisal.
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Secretary General,Reporters sans frontieres (RSF)Ann Cooper
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Arab Press Freedom Watch (APFW)Ahmed Kiimiko
Somali Human Rights Defenders Network (SOHRIDEN)Omar Faruk Osman
Somali Journalists Network (SOJON)