Journalist imprisoned for report on alleged arms dealing

New York, December 1, 2005—A Somali reporter has been jailed since Monday following his recent online story claiming that a faction known as the Jubba Valley Alliance has been importing arms in violation of the 2004 peace agreement and a United Nations arms embargo, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) reported.

The faction, which controls the southern city of Kismayo, is holding reporter Ahmed Mohammed Aden and has accused him of posting “false information” in an article on the Gedonet Online Web site, NUSOJ reported. Aden also works for private radio station Jubba FM in Kismayo and is a prominent member of NUSOJ.

Somalia has had no functioning central government since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) established under a 2004 peace accord remains divided between factions based in the town of Jowhar and the capital Mogadishu. Kismayo faction leader Barre “Hirale” Aden Shire is reconstruction minister in the TFG.

The Committee to Protect Journalists attempted to contact Mohammed Abdi Hayir, information minister for the transitional government, to verify details of the NUSOJ report, but was unable to reach him. NUSOJ is considered an authoritative source on local press freedom issues.

“We call on the TFG and Kismayo authorities to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Ahmed Mohammed Aden,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We also appeal to TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf to publicly condemn continuing attacks on the Somali press and to help bring them to an end.”

Awale Jama Salad, a reporter with the private radio station STN, went into hiding in October in the autonomous Puntland region of northeast Somalia, NUSOJ reported. Police raided his home in Bossasso and the homes of four of his friends, saying they wanted to question the reporter about “false” information, NUSOJ reported.

Jama has been jailed twice this year and released without charge. In September he was detained for two days for denouncing local prison conditions. See CPJ’s September 27 alert.