Police on November 20, 2018, arrested Nur Ismail Sheikh, an editor for the privately owned website Shaaciye, who had been critical of Abdirahman Omar Osman, who is mayor of Mogadishu and governor of the Banadir Region. Police arrested him at a Mogadishu hotel where an individual claiming to be a government official from the Banadir Regional Administration, had asked to meet him, according to Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, a journalist who is familiar with the case, and Daud Abdi Daud, secretary general of SOMESHA, an association of science and health journalists of which Nur is a member.
Nur who was released on December 2, told CPJ after his release that the official had identified himself as a consultant to the mayor, but when Nur arrived at the hotel he was met instead by members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who arrested him and, later at the police station, questioned him about his writing.
Nur told CPJ that police told him he was arrested on the mayor’s order. He said police cited his critical Facebook posts, some of which they had printed, about the mayor’s track record as the reasons for his arrest.
Mayor Abdirahman, in a December 2018 email to CPJ, denied that a member of his administration had asked to meet Nur or mediate in a dispute between the two of them. He said he was not involved in the arrest of Nur.
Nur was released on bail and without charge, according to Ismail Sheikh Khalifa, chair of the press rights group Human Rights Journalists. At the time of his release, Somali authorities had not provided an official explanation for the arrest, according to Mohamed Moalimuu, secretary general of the government-recognized National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), and Ismail Sheikh Khalifa. Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala, the director general of the Ministry of Information, in early December confirmed that the journalist was released and said discussions were ongoing. He did not provide further details.
Hussein Madoobe, the Norway-based owner of the website that Nur edits, told CPJ that two days before his arrest, the CID called Nur and asked him to come to their offices to answer questions about a case. The officer did not elaborate on the nature of the case, Hussein said.
Hussein added that in March and July, people who identified themselves as government officials called Nur and offered to pay him for positive coverage of the government. Hussein said that the outlet declined the offer and that he believed Nur’s arrest may be connected to the request.
Hussein added that the mayor told him he had not ordered Nur’s arrest.
Local journalists with whom CPJ spoke said they believed that Nur’s arrest may have been in relation to Facebook posts that were critical of government officials. Nur frequently shares news articles and video clips from local outlets along with commentary on his Facebook pages that are critical of officials. Posts before his arrest included a video of the mayor dancing alongside a comment that accused the official of acting irresponsibly, according to Ismail Sheikh Khalifa and Abdalle. Ali Omar, an opposition politician who visited Nur in prison, told CPJ that he believed the post may have been the reason for Nur’s arrest. Following his release, Nur confirmed that this post of the mayor dancing was one the ones that police printed and presented to him as the reason for his arrest.
Omar said that a contact at the Attorney General’s office told him that the journalist was under investigation for insulting a public official.