The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the arrest of twenty five journalists in Somaliland recently, accusing the authorities of waging a campaign of intimidation to silence independent reporting.
Reports say that 21 journalists were detained over the weekend by security forces and held in Hargeisa, Borame and Las Anod police stations. They were released today, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFJ affiliate, but four who had been arrested earlier remain in custody.
"We welcome the release of the journalists but remain concerned by the crackdown on media in Somaliland," said Jim Boumelha, President of the IFJ. "These are wanton acts of intimidation against the journalists and the media in Somaliland. We support the right of journalists to report independently and call for the release of the four colleagues still in detention."
On Saturday, 14 January, police in Somaliland stormed the main headquarters of HornCable TV in the capital town Hargeisa, threw out the staff and sealed off the offices. Two production studios of the television network in Haregisa, which were not in the same building of the headquarters, were also closed down.
According to NUSO, the authorities in Somaliland were angered by the channel's report on a tribal meeting in Taleeh district of Sool region, in which tribal politicians and elders announced the establishment of an autonomous administration". The TV station also reportedly aired views of people criticising Somaliland administration for not preventing this meeting from taking place, reports said.
On Sunday, 15 January, journalists organised a peaceful protest demonstration in front of Somaliland State House. The Presidential guard attacked protesters, beating up journalists and arresting 18 journalists working for HornCable TV. Police also hunted down other journalists who took part in the protest and arrested journalists and media practitioners.
According to NUSOJ, a total of 21 journalists, including 6 female, were arrested over the weekend and detained. They were Mohamud Abdi Jama, editor-in-chief (Waaheen ), Mohamed Omar Abdi, editor-in-chief ( Jamhuuriya ), Ahmed Aden Dhere, reporter (Haatuf ), Mohamed Said Harago, head of news (Berberanews), Najah Adan Unaye, director (Hadhwanaagnews), Suhur Barre, reporter (HornCable TV), Abdiqani Abdullahi Ahmed, reporter (Hadhwanaagnews), Mohamed Ahmed Muse, reporter (HornCable TV), Mohamed Fayr , reporter, (Geeska Africa ), Saleban Abdi Ali Kalshaale, reporter (Waaheen), Khalid Hamdi Ahmed, reporter (Waaheen), Nimo Omar Mohmed Sabriye, presenter (HornCable TV), Hamsa Ali Bulbul, reporter (HornCable TV), Mohamed Ahmed Muse Kurase, reporter (HornCable TV), Abdirahman Sheik Yunes, newscaster (HornCable TV), Ayan Diriye, reporter (HornCable TV), Nimo' Diriye, reporter (HornCable TV), Hodan Ali Ajabi, reporter (HornCable TV), Safiya Nuh Sheikh, presenter (HornCable TV), Ahmed Abdirahman Hersi, news editor (HornCable TV), Jama Omar Abdullahi, reporter (Waaheen).
Farhan Haji Ali Ahmed, owner of HornCable TV, was also summoned to report today at the Somali Presidency for questioning but the 21 journalists were released today.
NUSOJ also condemned the arrests and called for the release of the four journalists who are still held.
"The release of these journalists is good news but we also demand the immediate release of four colleagues who have no case to answer," said Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of NUSOJ who called for their immediate and unconditional release. "This systematic harassment and intimidation of journalists and media workers by the police and Somaliland security forces must end."
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 131 countries