Nairobi, July 10, 2017–Authorities in Somaliland should immediately release TV journalist Omar Ali Hassan Serbiya, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Security officers arrested Omar when he arrived at Hargeisa on July 8, the administrative capital of the semi-autonomous republic, his employer told CPJ.
The journalist was on his way to visit his family in Somaliland on holiday from his work as a producer for Goobjoog Media, which is based in the Somali capital Mogadishu, when security forces arrested him at the airport, Goobjoog Media director Hassan Mohamud told CPJ. Since his arrest, Omar has been held without charge at an undisclosed location and his family has been unable to reach him, according to the Human Rights Centre in Somaliland. Authorities had said that they would charge Omar in court today but failed to do so, Yahye Mohamed, the executive director of the Somaliland Journalist Association (SOLJA), told CPJ.
Yasin Mohamud, Somaliland’s interior minister, told CPJ that the arrest was linked to views Omar expressed on the internet, on social media, and elsewhere that threatened the “security and stability” of Somaliland. SOLJA said that the posts in question touched on the sovereignty of Somaliland, which declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991. While Somaliland has its own government, its independence is not internationally recognized.
“Somaliland’s detention of TV journalist Omar Ali Hassan Serbiya for his views displays a grave disregard for the basic principles of free expression,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “We call on authorities in Somaliland to release Omar immediately, and to allow the media to report freely, without fear of reprisal.”
Yasin told CPJ that Omar was merely being interviewed by security personnel, and that the journalist would be released tomorrow.
Somaliland Chief Justice Adam Haji Ali, however, told CPJ that he expected the government to bring charges tomorrow. The Somaliland constitution requires authorities to charge or release suspects within 48 hours of their arrest.
Yahye, of SOLJA, told CPJ that Omar’s arrest was the latest in a string of government actions aimed at restricting the working environment for journalists. Authorities detained Horseed Media journalist Mohamed Dirir without charge from May 24 to June 24 for asking a critical question at a news conference, according to media reports.