Abdiqaadir Saleban Aseyr, chief editor of privately owned Horn Cable TV, was arrested on November 18, 2019, in the breakaway region of Somaliland, after police summoned him. Horn Cable TV’s Hargeisa offices were also shut down for three days following his arrest, after authorities accused the station of spreading false news and anti-national propaganda. Though prosecutors had yet to formally charge Abdiqaadir in late November, court documents show that prosecutors took issue with Horn Cable’s reporting on alleged aviation safety concerns and an interview with a local militia leader.
Abdiqaadir, also known as Coday, is the chief editor of Horn Cable TV, according to one of the station’s journalists, Abdikarim Saed Salah, who spoke to CPJ. Based in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, the station also broadcasts from studios in Nairobi, Mogadishu and London, according to Abdikarim.
Abdiqaadir was arrested on November 18, 2019, after obeying a police summons to appear at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Depart (CID), in Hargeisa, according to Abdikarim and to a statement issued by the non-governmental organization Human Rights Centre (HRC). During the arrest police showed another journalist who had accompanied Abdiqaadir a notice ordering the closure of Horn Cable TV, according to Abdikarim.
On November 19, a court in Hargeisa granted police seven days to hold the editor in custody pending investigations on charges that were not disclosed. The court, however, rejected the closure order issued against Horn Cable TV. Authorities immediately appealed this decision and the station’s Hargeisa offices remained closed until November 20, when an appeals court upheld the decision of the lower court. The appeals court ruled that the suspension of Horn Cable TV should only be decided after Abdiqaadir’s trial was concluded, according to the court document seen by CPJ.
Though prosecutors were yet to formally charge Abdiqaadir by late November, arguments presented by police during the court appearances indicate that the editor’s arrest and the shutdown of the station are connected to Horn Cable TV’s critical reporting. In asking the court to suspend the station, prosecutors accused Horn Cable TV of anti-national propaganda and the publication of false news in connection to a November 2019 report on aviation safety at the Egal International Airport in Hargeisa, according to a court document seen by CPJ. They said that the report was meant to weaken the state of Somaliland, according to the document. Abdikarim, who attended the November 19 court hearing, told CPJ that this report was also cited in requesting time to hold Abdiqaadir in custody. He said authorities also referred to an interview with Suldaan Wabar, a militia leader in the region, in their request to hold Abdiqaadir. Abdiqaadir had been summoned by police and appeared November 14 to answer questions regarding the station’s reporting on these specific stories, according to Abdikarim and the Somali Journalists Syndicate.
On November 26, the Hargeisa court granted police four more days to hold Abdiqaadir in custody pending investigations, according to Abdikarim. On November 30, 2019, the court granted police three more days to hold him in custody, according to Abdikarim. As of early December 2019, he remained detained at the CID headquarters in Hargeisa.
CPJ’s emails in November to Attorney General Hassan Aden went unanswered. Somaliland’s information minister, Mohamed Muse Dirie, did not answer CPJ’s phone calls or respond to a message that was delivered to his phone via messaging app. A message submitted through the Ministry of Information’s website also went unanswered.