Two journalists held in Somaliland over critical report

New York, January 3, 2007—Police in the northern self-declared republic of Somaliland stormed the offices of the Somali-language daily Haatuf late Tuesday and seized two journalists over an article alleging corruption by the president’s wife, according to local media reports and local journalists. Managing editor Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and editor Ali Abdi Dini have been held for questioning at the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department in Hargeysa, according to the newspaper’s associate editor Rashid Mostafa. He said about 40 police stormed the newspaper offices and did not show arrest warrants.

Police Commissioner Muhammad Sangade Dubad was quoted by government-owned Radio Hargeysa as saying that the journalists were arrested over an article on Tuesday “insulting the president of the republic of Somaliland and his wife.” The article alleged the president’s wife had embezzled government property, according to Mostafa.

“It is outrageous that dozens of police officers should storm the offices of a newspaper and haul away two journalists for writing about a public figure,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on the authorities to release our colleagues Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and Ali Abdi Dini immediately.”

The journalists were allowed visitors, but their cell phones and a camera from the newsroom were taken away, according to Mostafa.

Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, but has never been internationally recognized. It has maintained relative peace and stability while southern Somalia has sunk further into violence and chaos.