Somalia closes newspaper, arrests editor

Nairobi, October 17, 2016 — Somali authorities should immediately release the editor of Xog Ogaal newspaper and allow the newspaper to resume publishing, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Officers from Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency raided the newspaper’s office and arrested its editor on October 15, according to press freedom advocates and press reports.

The newspaper ceased publishing after agents of Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency raided the offices of Xog Ogaal, one of the country’s oldest newspapers, and arrested the newspaper’s editor, Abdi Aden Guled. They also confiscated equipment from staff, the paper’s manager, Mohamed Mohamud, told the government-recognized National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). Ahmed Mohamed, a reporter with the newspaper, also confirmed the arrest to the Associated Press.

“The arrest of Xog Ogaal‘s editor, Abdi Aden Guled, and the silencing of one of Somalia’s oldest newspapers should be cause for serious international alarm,” CPJ East Africa Representative Murithi Mutiga said. “Somali authorities must demonstrate that they continue to abide by their commitments to press freedom by releasing the journalist and allowing the newspaper to resume publication without delay.”

Somali officials did not immediately disclose the reasons for the arrest raid or whether there was a formal order to the newspaper to stop publishing. Somalia’s information minister, Mohamed Abdi, told CPJ that he was not immediately able to comment.

NUSOJ Secretary-General Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu told CPJ he had spoken to an official with the intelligence agency who said the agency had been ordered to arrest Abdi by a “senior government official,” whom he did not name. He said the official had complained about Xog Ogaal‘s recent publication of what he called “graphic photos” of people said to have been killed by al-Shabaab militants after Ethiopian troops withdrew from the El Ali village in the Hiraan region.

Somalia is scheduled to hold presidential elections in November. Somali journalists in September told the press freedom group International Media Support that they feared increased pressure and danger as the election approached.

CPJ ranked Somalia as the worst offender in its 2015 Global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are killed and killers go free.

In September, gunmen on motorbikes fatally shot radio journalist Abdiaziz Ali in Mogadishu, CPJ reported reported at the time. He was at least the second journalist to be killed in the city this year.