Hassan Gessey, Dalsan Radio director and chairman of Somali Independent Media Houses Association, has been arrested. (SIMHA)
Hassan Gessey, Dalsan Radio director and chairman of Somali Independent Media Houses Association, has been arrested. (SIMHA)

Somali journalist arrested after speaking out against censorship

Nairobi, September 3, 2014Somali journalist Hassan Gessey, a radio director at the independent Dalsan Radio, is being held without charge by the National Intelligence and Security Agency after criticizing a directive to restrict reporting on military operations, according to news reports and local journalists.

Armed members of the security services arrested Hassan and Abubakar Moyhedin, a presenter and staff manager, at the Mogadishu station at about 9 a.m. today according to news reports. Abubakar was released after a few hours but Hassan remains in custody and has not been charged, local journalists told CPJ.

The arrest comes after Hassan gave several radio interviews in his capacity as chairman of the Somali Independent Media Houses Association (SIMHA) on Tuesday evening, including one for the U.S.-backed Voice of America Somali Service. In the interviews, Hassan denounced a directive made by the National Intelligence and Security Agency that called on the Somali press to restrict their coverage of a military operation.

“Somalia’s authorities appear to have committed a double press freedom violation: first they tried to censor the media by asking them not to report on certain military operations, and then they arrested a journalist who dared to criticize the censorship,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “We call on authorities to release Hassan Gessey immediately and let the press do its job.”

Information Minister Mustafa Dhuholow is looking into the arrest of Hassan, government spokesman Abdirahman Omar told CPJ. The government has not responded to SIMHA’s concerns over the press directive.

The directive was handed down to media outlets on Tuesday at a meeting with the new security chief, Mohamed Aden Kofi. It calls on the press to restrict coverage of operations against Al-Shabaab to information issued by the security agency, according to local journalists and SIMHA.

On Tuesday SIMHA, an umbrella media support organization representing 28 independent outlets in Somalia, released a statement calling on the National Assembly to intervene in what it viewed as a violation of press freedom.

Somali and African Union forces are currently involved in Operation Indian Ocean — a military operation to oust Al-Shabaab. The militia, which has links to al-Qaeda and is suspected of being linked to terror attacks in Kenya, has been pushed out of most Somali towns it once held, but insurgents still control large rural areas of the country.

Hassan is being held at the Banadir regional security office, known locally as “Godka Jila’ow”, local journalists told CPJ.