Nairobi, September 27, 2017--Somaliland authorities should immediately release Mohamed Adan Dirir, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police arrested the Somali journalist on September 16 on allegations of incitement and publishing false news, local journalist groups told CPJ.
Mohamed, the editor of online news portal Horseed News and owner of the news website Saylactoday was arrested while covering a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Hargeisa, the administrative capital of the semi-autonomous region, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairman of the Human Rights Center, in Somaliland, and Yahye Mohamed, executive chair of Somaliland Journalists Association, told CPJ.
Guleid told CPJ that according to court documents Mohamed is accused of false news and instigating the public to disobey the law. Publishing false news carries a prison sentence of six months or a fine of up to 3 million Somaliland shillings (US$5,146), and instigating the public to disobey the law carries a sentence of up to five years, according to Somaliland's penal code.
Mohamed's arrest is linked to articles in which he allegedly accused Noradin, a group of private schools, of mismanagement and misconduct, Guleid and Yahye told CPJ. According to a report in All East Africa, Mohamed alleged in reports published on several news websites, including Gabiley Media, that teachers accepted bribes from students. Several links to the articles have since been removed, according to Guleid and Mahad Ibrahim Mohamed, managing director of Noradin Schools. The articles did not appear on Horseed News, the website's owner, Abdikarim Saed Salah, told CPJ.
"Criminalizing reporting and jailing journalists is not the way to address disputes about editorial content," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal, from New York. "We urge authorities to immediately release Mohamed Adan Dirir from jail and to drop the investigation into his work."
Mahad, from Noradin Schools, told CPJ that he filed a complaint against Mohamed over the reports. He said that Mohamed wrote similar articles six months ago and allegedly attempted extortion.
Mohamed has appeared in court twice and is being detained at the Criminal Investigation Department in Hargeisa, Guleid said. A court ruled that police can detain Mohamed for a longer period without charge while they investigate his case, Guleid said.
Somaliland's information minister, Osman Abdullahi Sahardid, confirmed Mohamed's arrest but did not respond to CPJ's request for further comment.
Mohamed has been arrested previously for his journalism. CPJ documented in May how authorities detained Mohamed without charge for a month after he asked the health minister a question during a press conference.
His site, Saylactoday, was one of five sites blocked by authorities in Somaliland in July for "disseminating false news" and "propaganda against officials of the State of the Republic of Somaliland," according to a translated court order seen by CPJ. The website remains blocked in Somaliland, Guleid said.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The fourth paragraph has been updated to correct the spelling of Abdikarim Saed Salah's name and to reflect that he is owner of Horseed News.]