In Somaliland, two journalists detained without charge

New York, April 6, 2012Authorities in Somaliland must immediately release two journalists who have been detained without charge for days in apparent violation of regional law, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Somaliland authorities arrested Ahmed Ali Farah, a reporter for Royal TV, in the northwest town of Las Anod, in the Sool region, on March 31, according to news reports. Local journalists told CPJ that Governor Mohamed Mohamud had ordered the arrest and said that Farah was being held in Central Las Anod Prison. Three days later, Abdisaman Isse, a reporter for Universal TV, was arrested while visiting Farah in prison, news reports said.

Somaliland law forbids detainees from being held without charge for more than 48 hours. Local journalists said authorities had not disclosed reasons for the journalists’ detention.

Local journalists told CPJ they suspected Farah and Isse were arrested for their coverage of the Sool region. The two journalists had recently covered a conference in the town of Taleh that culminated in the announcement of a new independent region, Khatumo State, the journalists told CPJ, adding that they feared the arrests of other journalists who had covered the Taleh conference.

“Authorities are holding Ahmed Ali Farah and Abdisaman Isse without explanation, in violation of the law, and in apparent reprisal for political coverage deemed unfavorable,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “The journalists should be released immediately.”

Control of the Sool region has been in dispute between the semiautonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland for two decades.

Somaliland authorities have repeatedly detained journalists this year in what appears to be an attempt to silence any reporting of instability in the region, according to CPJ research.