Somaliland editor detained after trading himself for colleague’s freedom

New York, April 20, 2017–Somaliland authorities should immediately release Ibrahim Osman Ahmed, editor of Hangool News, who has been held without charge since April 15, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Ibrahim is in custody in Hargeisa Central Police Station after handing himself over to police to secure the release of Abdirahman Arab Da’ud, also from Hangool News, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairperson of the Human Rights Center in Somaliland, told CPJ.

The journalists’ detentions are linked to Hangool News reports critical of Somaliland police commissioner Abdillahi Fadal Iman and conditions in Hargeisa Central Police Station, Yahye Mohamed, executive director of the Somaliland Union of Journalists, told CPJ. Guleid told CPJ that Ibrahim handed himself in after police said they would release Abdirahman, who was detained April 11, in exchange for his arrest.

“Somaliland authorities should immediately release Ibrahim Osman Ahmed and end its harassment of Hangool News staff,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal from South Africa. “News agencies must be permitted to report without fear of detention or other forms of reprisal.”

Authorities have not charged Ibrahim and he has not appeared in court, Abdirahman told CPJ in an email. During the five days that Abdirahman was imprisoned, the journalist was not charged and did not have a court appearance, he told CPJ. It is illegal to hold a person without charge for more than 48 hours after their arrest, according to the Somaliland constitution.

“Fortunately, I got my freedom, but they exchanged me [for] Ibrahim Osman and we don’t know when they will take [him] to the court, and that is the reason we are worrying,” Abdirahman said.

In recent months, CPJ has documented the arrest and detention of multiple journalists in the breakaway territory of Somalia, often in connection with views perceived by authorities as favoring reunification.