Police on November 20, 2018, arrested Nur Ismail Sheikh, an editor for the privately owned website Shaaciye, at a Mogadishu hotel where 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.
According to Daud, who visited Nur in detention, the official had offered to mediate in a row between Nur and Abdirahman Omar Osman, who is mayor of Mogadishu and governor of the Banadir Region, about the journalist’s criticism of the administration. Daud did not name the official.
Abdalle told CPJ that when the official arrived at the hotel he was accompanied by members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who questioned Nur about his writing and then arrested Nur.
The journalist was detained until December 2, 2018, when authorities released him on bail and without charge, according 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.
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 believes Nur’s arrest may be connected to the request.
Hussein added that 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.
Omar said that a contact at the Attorney General’s office told him that the journalist was under investigation for insulting a public official.
Mayor Abdirahman was unreachable on his mobile phone in late November and CPJ’s text messages requesting comment remained unanswered. Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala, the director general of the Ministry of Information, in early December confirmed that the journalist was released but said discussions were ongoing. He did not provide further details.
CPJ was unable to find a contact number to speak with Nur in early December.