Mohamed Ahmed (SBC Online)
Mohamed Ahmed (SBC Online)

Puntland must explain detention of journalists

New York, January 5, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland to explain why they have held two journalists without charge since Monday.

Security personnel in the port city of Bossasso arrested Radio Daljir producer Mohamed Ahmed and reporter Yusuf Ali around midnight on Monday and they are being held at the Bossasso Central Police Station, Radio Daljir Editor Adam Shardi told CPJ.

Ahmed and Ali were returning home from their night shift at the private radio station when they were arrested along with dozens of others in a security sweep. The arrests took place after gunshots were heard in town, local journalists said. Ali is suffering from typhoid and cannot eat, local journalists told CPJ after they were allowed to visit their colleagues in prison today for the first time. The detention contravenes Puntland’s law requiring charges to be filed within 48 hours of arrest.

“The ongoing detention of Mohamed Ahmed and Yusuf Ali is illegal and we call on authorities to release them immediately,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Journalists often work later hours and should not be arbitrarily arrested simply for returning home in the evening.”

Information Minister Ahmed Ali Askar told CPJ he was unaware of the detentions but would look into the matter. CPJ’s phone calls to security personnel went unanswered.

Puntland authorities have targeted private media broadcasters since late last year, according to CPJ research. On Wednesday, security personnel and the governor of the Bari region in Puntland, Abdisamad Mohamed, met with local journalists and warned them not to report on any grenade explosions or attacks by suicide bombers in Bossasso without prior consent of the security forces, local journalists told CPJ. In November, the information ministry banned two private broadcasters, Universal TV and Somali Channel TV, from operating in the region. The ban on Universal TV was lifted in December but the ban on Somali Channel TV remains, according to local journalists. In August, unknown assailants threw a grenade at the premises of Radio Daljir, lightly injuring the security guard and damaged the front of the station’s compound, local journalists said. The motive for the attack remains unclear, according to local reports.