Somaliland police arrested 16 journalists and raided the headquarters of Horn Cable TV on 13 April. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Somali affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), condemn this mass and unjustified arrests of independent media workers and call for their immediate release.
Some journalists were arrested while they were covering a standoff between inmates and guards at the Hargeisa Central Prison where a riot had broken out. Journalists from different media moved to the prison to cover the event.
According to reports, police officers initially turned against journalists at the scene, assaulting and arresting ten of them. Later in the day, police raided the headquarters of Horn Cable TV in Hargeisa as part of efforts to prevent broadcasts on the events at the prison and arrested more media workers.
According to NUSOJ, the following journalists are still being detained in the Central Police Station of Hargeisa and Secret Services detention centre:
1. Mohamed Abdi Sheikh (Ilig), Director MMTV
2. Hassan Saleban Harun (Galaydh), reporter for BBC
3. Ahmed Mohamud Yusuf, reporter for SAAB TV
4. Hamse Hirsi Hayd, reporter CBA TV
5. Aydarus Mohamed, Hargeisa Director for Goobjoog Tv
6. Ahmed-nuur Samraawi, Reporter for Bulsho TV
7. Ahmed Said Hassan Shimali, reporter for HornCable TV
8. Mohamed Faan, Cameraman for MMTV
9. Abdijibar Mohamed Hussein, Reporter for HornCable TV
10. Khalid Mahad Alleeli, Reporter for HornCable TV
11. Mohamed Suldan Ahmed, Reporter for HornCable TV
12. Ayanle Abdi Buni, Cameraman for HornCable TV
13. Mustafa Muhumed Abdi, Cameraman for HornCable TV
14. Abdifatah Mohamud Ismail, Cameraman for HornCable TV
Two female journalists, Sagal Mustafe Hassan Nur, reporter for VOA, and Naima Abdi Ahmed, freelance journalist and youtuber, were released during the day.
“We condemn this arbitrary, uncalled for action by the police and demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained journalists,” said NUSOJ Secretary General, Omar Faruk Osman. “Journalists were covering an event of public interest that citizens have a right to know about. Their activities are protected under the law and the police have a duty to provide protection to journalists on duty instead of harassing, assaulting and arresting them,” Osman added.
Somaliland authorities, which is a de facto state in the Horn of Africa and considered internationally to be part of Somalia, have a long-record of media violations, according to the latest Annual Report on the State of the Media in Somalia published by the NUSOJ.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the efforts by Somaliland authorities to control media freedom and the free flow of information. The mass arrests of journalists and the storming of a newsroom to prevent the dissemination of information and footage are very serious actions against press freedom. Our colleagues must be released immediately.”