Soldiers are seen in Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 25, 2021. Security forces throughout the country have recently harassed and arrested journalists. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

Journalists harassed, arrested throughout Somalia

Between February 19 and April 9, federal and regional authorities in Somalia arrested at least two reporters and harassed at least four others, according to journalists who spoke to CPJ and a statement by the Somali Journalists Syndicate, a local press rights group.

Most of the journalists were targeted for their political reporting, amid tensions after regional and federal leaders failed to reach an agreement on how and when to hold elections that were originally scheduled for February, according to news reports.

On February 22, regional security personnel in Bosaso, a city in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, arrested Ahmed Botan Arab, a journalist who publishes reports on his Facebook page, where he has about 70,000 followers, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app.

The officers drove Ahmed to the city’s presidential palace, where a police officer asked him to take down a Facebook video report from earlier that day in which he interviewed members of the public about their reactions to a speech made by Puntland’s president, Said Abdullahi Deni, the journalist said.

Ahmed told CPJ after he refused to delete the Facebook post, and the officers transferred him to a police station where he was held until February 24, when he was released unconditionally.

On April 9, police in Adado, a city in Galmudug state, arrested Haashim Omar Hassan, a reporter with the privately owned broadcaster Radio Adado and contributor to the Nairobi-based Five Somali TV, he told CPJ via messaging app.

While in custody, police questioned Haashim about two posts on his personal Facebook page—one, on April 6, alleging that security personnel had failed to pay their bills at a local restaurant, and another, on April 9, alleging that a police officer had shot and killed a young man, he said. Haashim frequently posts political news updates and samples of his reporting on his personal Facebook page, where he has about 11,000 followers.

Authorities held Haashim overnight and then released him unconditionally the next day, according to the journalist and Fu’ad Haji Abdiwali, Five Somali TV’s chief executive, who also spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

In February, security personnel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu also harassed four journalists with the privately owned Goobjoog Media Group:

  • On February 19, intelligence officers interrupted two Goobjoog journalists while they were interviewing people on the street and the officers tried to coach their interview subjects into making positive comments about the federal government, according to the two journalists, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
  • On February 23, security personnel in Mogadishu confronted Goobjoog reporter Abdirahman Mohamed Abdi and camera operator Abdirisak Abdullahi Fagas while they were filming near the site of a planned February 26 opposition protest that was later cancelled, the two journalists told CPJ via messaging app. The officers forced them to delete footage and threatened them with arrest if they refused to comply, they said.
  • On February 25, two armed men approached Abdirisak after he covered an event by the political opposition in Mogadishu, and forced him to show them his footage, he told CPJ. He said the men wore civilian clothes and had guns, and he believed they were intelligence personnel based on his interactions with such agents in the past.

Abdirahman Yusuf Omar, Somalia’s deputy information minister, told CPJ via messaging app that his ministry would take “suitable steps” to investigate the harassment of the Goobjoog journalists if the outlet filed a formal complaint.

Somalia’s information minister, Osman Abukar Dubbe, did not answer a call from CPJ or respond to a message sent via messaging app.  Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency did not respond to an email from CPJ.

Puntland presidential spokesperson Jama Deperani did not answer CPJ’s phone calls or respond to a message requesting comment on Ahmed’s arrest. CPJ also emailed Puntland’s office of the president for comment, but did not receive any reply.

CPJ emailed the Galmudug state government and called a number listed on its official Facebook page for comment, but did not receive any responses.