Somali journalist Fardowso Mohamud Sahal was recently harassed and threatened by police while reporting in Mogadishu. (Photo: Dalsan TV/YouTube)

Police officers assault, threaten journalist Fardowso Mohamud Sahal in Somalia

On May 16, 2021, two police officers in the Bondere district of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, assaulted and threatened Fardowso Mohamud Sahal, a reporter, anchor, and producer with the privately owned broadcaster Radio Kulmiye, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and statements by the Somali Journalists Syndicate and the Federation of Somali Journalists, two local press rights groups.

Fardowso was covering a protest by mothers of Somali sons allegedly sent to military training in Eritrea, when a police officer reached for her microphone and, while struggling to grab it, hit Fardowso in the face, the journalist told CPJ. During the scuffle, another officer shoved Fardowso to the ground, pointed his gun at her, and threatened to kill her, she said.

Fardowso said that a group of about 20 women intervened and the police officers walked away. The officers confiscated her phone and microphone during the scuffle, she said.

Soon after the attack, Fardowso received pain medication from a local hospital for muscle aches; she told CPJ that bruising on her face was still present as of May 22.

The journalist told CPJ that Abdikarim Dhalac, a member of parliament, and Farhan Mohamud Adan, the Banadir Region police chief in whose jurisdiction Mogadishu falls, assisted her in the days following the attack, and secured a payment from local authorities on May 23 to reimburse her for the confiscated devices.

Somalia’s deputy information minister, Abdirahaman Yusuf Omar, told CPJ via messaging app said that he was sorry for any attacks on the Somali press but that as far as he knew, authorities had resolved Fardowso’s case. He did not respond to a follow-up message asking to clarify how the case had been resolved.

Fardowso told CPJ that, after asking people at the scene and viewing a photo of the officer online, she identified the first officer who attacked her as Sharmake Hassan Mohamud, the police commander of Mogadishu’s Hamar Weyne district.

When CPJ called Sharmake, he said that “something happened” but disputed that it occurred as Fardowso described it. He said the journalist “is not saying the truth” but he declined to comment further. He referred CPJ to Farhan, the Banadir region police commander, for further comment.

CPJ called Farhan, and he requested questions be sent via messaging app; CPJ sent those questions and also messaged Farhan on Facebook, but did not receive any replies.

Somali deputy police commissioner and spokesperson Zakia Hussein did not answer phone calls and messages sent to her social media accounts by CPJ.

After the publication of this article, Abdikarim, the member of parliament, replied via email to CPJ’s requests for comment. He said that the attack on Fardowso was an accident, and that police did not recognize her as a Radio Kulmiye journalist when they attempted to stop her from recording.

Abdikarim said that Sharmake had been “punished through police rules,” but did not specify what kind of punishment he received.

[Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include Abdikarim’s response to CPJ.]