Somali journalists arrested after airing rape allegations

Nairobi, November 21, 2013Somali authorities arrested two journalists, one of them the victim of an alleged rape, on Wednesday in Mogadishu, the capital, and charged them with defamation in connection with a report on the alleged rape, according to news reports and local journalists.

In a video, which was posted online earlier this week, Radio Shabelle journalist Mohamed Bashir interviews a female reporter of Kasmo Voice Women Radio, who says that she was raped at gunpoint. The unnamed victim said she was assaulted by two journalists from the state-owned Radio Mogadishu, according to news reports.

The woman named her alleged attackers in the video. The accused denied the allegations and filed a defamation suit, according to news reports.

Mohamed and the victim of the alleged rape have been detained at the Central Investigations Department headquarters, local journalists said.

“This is not the first time in Somalia that the victim of an alleged rape and a messenger have been harassed or imprisoned for reporting such allegations,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “We call on authorities to release Mohamed Bashir and the victim of the alleged rape, and to ensure a transparent and efficient investigation into the allegations.”

The manager of the Shabelle Media Network, Abdimaalik Yusuf, was also detained for six hours in connection with the story, news reports said. He was questioned in custody about recording the interview, and then released, the reports said.

Government Spokesmen Abdirahman Omar Osman told CPJ that they were allowing the police and judiciary to carry out their investigations prior to any government involvement in the case.

In February, a Mogadishu court sentenced a victim of an alleged rape, as well as Abdiaziz Abdinuur, the freelance journalist who interviewed her, to one-year prison sentences, but released them on appeal two months later, according to CPJ research. Abdiaziz fled the country soon after release, fearing for his life, he told CPJ.

Authorities forced Radio Shabelle off the air on October 26 over a building ownership dispute and confiscated the media house’s equipment, local journalists told CPJ. The station is off the air, but still broadcasting online. The government recently returned the equipment to Shabelle Media Network but in a damaged state, Abdimaalik said.

The president’s director of communications, Malik Abdalla, denied that the equipment had been returned damaged and said the claim was “completely false,” he told CPJ.