Nairobi, January 20, 2021 – Authorities in the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Kilwe Adan Farah, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 27, 2020, intelligence personnel in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, detained Kilwe, who runs the Facebook-based news outlet Kilwe Media Inc, according to posts by his outlet and Omar Adan Farah, Kilwe’s brother, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Authorities held Kilwe at an undisclosed location and barred his family and legal counsel from visiting him until January 11, when he was transferred to Garowe Central Prison, according to statements by the Media Association of Puntland and the Mogadishu-based Somali Journalists Syndicate, two press rights groups.
During a January 12 press conference, Mohamed Dahir Warsame, chair of the Media Association of Puntland, who was part of a group that visited Kilwe in detention that day, said that a military court had accused Kilwe of murder and attempted murder. Mohamed said he believed the allegations were fabricated and questioned the legality of a military court handling a civilian’s case.
If charged and convicted of murder, Kilwe could face a death sentence, according to Somalia’s penal code. In a statement emailed to CPJ today, the Media Association of Puntland said that officials had not filed formal charges in the case, or specified who Kilwe is alleged to have murdered. Omar told CPJ that authorities have not announced any court dates in his case.
“Authorities’ outrageous detention of journalist Kilwe Adan Farah and the trumped-up allegations against him send a message that the media cannot work freely in Puntland,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo. “Authorities should immediately and unconditionally free Kilwe, and cease interfering in the work of journalists.”
Kilwe went on a hunger strike for two days during his detention at an undisclosed location, and authorities allowed him to speak to his mother in a phone call “to beg him to eat,” the Media Association of Puntland said in its statement.
In the days leading up to Kilwe’s arrest, his outlet aired interviews about the construction of a local road, a report on a visit by Galmudug regional President Ahmed Abdi Karie, interviews with members of the public about recent economic policies, and coverage of a protest in Garowe, which included interviews with members of the public who were also critical of the government’s management of the local currency.
In its statement, the Somali Journalists Syndicate noted that another journalist who had covered that protest, Horn Cable TV’s Farah Mohamed Khalif, had also been arrested on December 27, but was freed on December 29 without charge.
The Media Association of Puntland has hired a lawyer to represent Kilwe, and plans to sue the Puntland Intelligence and Security Agency for violating the journalist’s rights, it said in its statement.
CPJ emailed the Puntland regional government and sent requests for comment through its official website, but did not receive any responses.
CPJ called and texted Jama Deperani, a regional government spokesperson, but did not receive any responses. In an interview with the privately owned broadcaster SBC Somali TV on January 2, Jama denied that any members of the press were detained illegally.