In November 2021, police in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland detained journalist Mohamud Abdirisaq Osman, who also goes by the name Fantastic, along with radio journalist Guleed Abdirazaq Nur, who also goes by Kibonge, after they covered public criticism of the region’s armed forces.
Both journalists were released on December 1, 2021; CPJ’s prison census is a snapshot of journalists detained around the world as at 12:01 am on December 1, regardless of whether they were released afterwards.
Mohamud is the founder and director of Qardho Media, a Facebook-based news outlet established in January 2021 that covers local news and has about 2,700 followers, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app. He also reposts Qardho Media’s reporting to his personal Facebook page, which has about 6,900 followers. Mohamud, who is based in the city of Qardho, told CPJ he previously worked as a reporter with the privately-owned media outlet Radio Daljir.
On November 25, police summoned Mohamud to appear at a police station in Qardho, according to the journalist and a November 26 report by Radio Daljir. Mohamud said he planned to comply with the summons but did not have time to do so; on November 26, police arrested him while he was walking in Qardho.
Guleed, a youth activist and director of the private radio station Anfac, told CPJ in a phone interview that police also arrested him that evening from his station’s offices in Qardho.
Mohamud and Guleed told CPJ that they were initially detained at the Qardho police station before being transferred to a prison in the town on November 27. They were held at that prison without access to their lawyers or family, and were not questioned by any officers at the facility, they told CPJ.
On the morning of December 1, Mohamud and Guleed were brought to a court in Qardho, where prosecutors accused them of public incitement, without citing any specific content by either journalist, they told CPJ.
Mohamud said he was released on condition that he not use journalism as a tool for “propaganda” and “fake news,” while Guleed said he was freed after agreeing not to discuss his detention or criticize the government.
Both Abdirizak and Guleed told CPJ that they believed their detentions were retaliation for their coverage of public opinion concerning changes to the leadership of the Puntland Security Force (PSF), a U.S.-trained elite anti-extremism unit.
In a report published on Qardho Media on November 25, Mohamud interviewed members of the public who criticized regional President Said Abdullahi Deni’s recent decision to replace the PSF’s director.
That decision sparked a mutiny among PSF soldiers, leading to a standoff with other security forces in the Puntland city of Bosaso, according to news reports.
Guleed told CPJ that on the evening of November 25, his station hosted a call-in show, during which callers aired their views regarding the stand-off in Bosaso.
On his personal Facebook page Guleed also posted a November 25 video of PSF soldiers, whom he referred to as the “lions” of East Africa, and republished a recording of a press conference in which military commanders from the PSF accused Puntland authorities of undermining peace. This press conference was also posted on the Radio Anfac Facebook page.
CPJ called Puntland government spokesperson Jama Deperani and sent questions via messaging app, but did not receive any replies. CPJ also emailed the Puntland Ministry of Security requesting comment, but did not receive any reply.