Radio Horyaal director, jailed in Somaliland, should be freed

New York, September 9, 2009—Police should release Mohamed Osman, director of Radio Horyaal, who has been held without charge since his arrest on Saturday outside parliament in Hargeisa, capital of the breakaway republic of Somaliland, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Mustapha Abdi Isse, chairman of the Somaliland Journalist Association, said local journalists believe the arrest may have come in reprisal for televised comments Osman made on Somaliland Space Channel. Osman accused Interior Minister Abdillahi Ismail of intimidating Radio Horyaal reporters, local journalists told CPJ.

Detainees may be held for no more than 48 hours without charge, according to Somaliland law.

“The illegal detention of Mohamed Osman is the latest in an ongoing pattern of government intimidation of the press,” CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes said today. “As the elections in Somaliland are delayed, individuals within the Somaliland government are cracking down on all critical reporting. Authorities must stop harassing the press at this important time.”

The September 27 presidential elections were postponed due to disputes over a voter registration list, according to news reports. Opposition party members have started impeachment proceedings against President Dahir Riyale after he suggested the vote would be held regardless of the state of the voter registration list. Journalists have faced increased harassment in recent weeks as tensions have risen.

On August 30, Somaliland police detained Ibrahim Qasim, a cameraman for the private broadcaster Warya TV, and Abdilahi Budul, a reporter for the private daily Haatuf, for 12 hours after the journalists covered a dispute in parliament, according to local news reports. Both were released without charge, but Qasim’s tapes were confiscated, Isse told CPJ.

Police in the northwestern town of Burao have finally released a Radio Horyaal journalist who was held 22 days without charge, local journalists told CPJ. Fowsi Suleiman was detained since August 3 for a story that accused a local official of malfeasance.