Mohamed Ahmed Jama is attacked in April, imprisoned in July. (Hubaal Media Network)
Mohamed Ahmed Jama's arm was broken in the attack. (Hubaal Media Network)

Somaliland official says media owner attacked by police

New York, April 30, 2013–A senior administration official in Somaliland has said that police officers were the perpetrators of an April 24 attack on the owner of a media network, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in the semi-autonomous republic to conduct a thorough investigation and ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice.

Two masked gunmen burst into the offices of the critical independent daily Hubaal in the capital, Hargeisa, at around 11:30 p.m. as the paper’s employees were proofreading the next day’s issue, according to local journalists and news reports. One assailant fired at least once at Mohamed Ahmed Jama, but missed, the reports said. Mohamed is the owner and manager of the Hubaal Media Network, which publishes Hubaal and the English daily The Independent, according to Hubaal Editor-in-Chief Hassan Hussein Abdillahi. Mohamed is also the manager of both papers.

Mohamed suffered a broken arm and finger while he and other employees subdued the gunman. The other assailant’s weapon jammed, and he fled, but police took the first gunman into custody, according to Abdillahi Adam Omar, chairman of the board of Hubaal Media Network.

Interior Minister Mohamed Nur Arale told the Somaliland House of Representatives on Monday that both gunmen had been identified as police officers and would be prosecuted, according to news reports.

Mohamed told CPJ he had not received any threats prior to the attack. Presidential Spokesman Suleiman Duhul denied any government involvement, news website SomalilandSun reported.

In recent weeks, Hubaal published a series of articles critical of the administration of Somaliland President Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo, Abdillahi said. In one article, Hubaal criticized public remarks made by Minister of Presidential Affairs Hirsi Ali Haji Hassan at an event with the Somaliland diaspora in London during the president’s official visit to the U.K., Abdillahi said. The paper has also criticized the interior minister for allegedly choosing to give interviews exclusively to state media in connection with deadly unrest on April 16 in the eastern town of Ainabo, the site of oil exploration. Hubaal also published a series of reports alleging corruption in the finance ministry, Hassan, the paper’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ.

In late March, police in Hargeisa arrested Jama Said Elmi, a contributor to Hubaal, in connection with his columns alleging corruption and nepotism in the Silanyo administration, according to news reports. Jama was convicted on charges of insulting the nation and sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 1 million Somaliland Shillings, according to the same sources.

“The attack on Hubaal and Mohamed Ahmed Jama is all the more alarming because of the reported involvement of police officers,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “We hold Somaliland authorities responsible for the safety of Hubaal staff, and we call on them to ensure that all those involved in the attack, including the masterminds, are brought to justice.”