In Somaliland, reporter jailed without charge

New York, July 18, 2007—In the northern breakaway republic of Somaliland, authorities jailed without charge on Saturday a journalist at a private newspaper in connection with a story about the anointment of a clan leader, according to news reports and local journalists.

Abdirahman Mohammed Habane, a correspondent of the Somali-language daily Jamhuuriya, was still detained today in the central prison in Borama, 65 miles (105 km) northwest of the capital Hargeysa, according to the same sources. Borama is the capital of the northwestern Awdal region of Somaliland, home of Somaliland President Dahir Rayale Kahin.

Local journalists and the editor of the London edition of Jamhuuriya linked the arrest to a story a week earlier Habane had reported in Jamhuuriya about a fight with fists and sticks between supporters and opponents of a local clan leader during a ritual ceremony to make him sultan, according to CPJ research. Four people were injured in the scuffle, which was widely reported in the local media, not just by Habane, according to Abdul Hakim, editor of the London edition.

In a statement to the local press on the day of the arrest, local Gov. Mohamoud Sheikh Abdillahi denied any government involvement in the arrest, saying only that it was linked to complaints from clan members, according to news reports. Police declined to comment on the arrest, referring inquiries to the governor, according to the reports.

“Arresting a journalist over a news story is unacceptable,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on Somaliland authorities to release Abdirahman Mohammed Habane immediately and unconditionally.”

Jamhuuriya journalists have been harassed and detained in recent years for critical coverage of the government.

Habane’s detention is the latest in a series of journalist arrests in Somaliland this year, according to CPJ research. Authorities this year jailed for three months three journalists of the leading independent daily Haatuf and held a freelance reporter for two days in connection with articles critical of Kahin. Last year, Jamhuuriya editor Mohammed Abdi Urad was detained overnight in connection with an article critical of local lawmakers, according to CPJ research.

Somaliland is seeking international recognition after declaring its independence from Somalia in 1991. It has largely escaped the instability that has engulfed Somalia for the last 16 years.