Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its local partner, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), condemn the continued detention of 14 journalists who were arrested yesterday in connection with their coverage of a prison riot in Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia, and demand that they be released immediately.
The arrests began when journalists went to cover a riot in the main prison in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, which is a self-proclaimed independent republic that is not recognized by the international world.
Initially, ten journalists were detained outside the prison in the afternoon. There were two ladies among them who were later released. When authorities went to the Horn Cable TV offices in New York, they arrested seven more journalists and seized many cameras.
In the end, a total of 14 journalists spent the night in the detention centre controlled by the Hargeisa central police intelligence department, and they were still being held when this press release was written.
According to the information obtained by NUSOJ, the detained journalists work for MMTV, BBC, SAAB TV, CBA TV, Goodjoog TV and Bulsho TV, as well as HornCable TV.
“These journalists did nothing wrong; they were simply doing their job,” said Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s Africa bureau. “They have no business being in prison and must be released immediately.” Somaliland, which is seeking recognition, has separated itself from the other Somali nations by the systematic nature of its harassment of journalists and media outlets in recent years.”
“This is the largest wave of journalist arrests in Somalia in years,” NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman remarked. “It is the police’s responsibility to protect them, not to take away their liberty.” They must be set free right away.”
RSF and NUSOJ’s calls and mails to Somaliland’s interior minister, Mohamed Kahin Ahmed, went unanswered.
Since 2020, RSF has been calling on the Somali governmental authorities to honour their pledge to decree a moratorium on detaining journalists for offences allegedly committed in the course of their work. The call was backed by the European Parliament in a resolution in 2021 that asked the Somali Prime Minister to declare the promised moratorium as soon as possible.
Somaliland harasses journalists more than any other state in Somalia. Of the 34 journalists arrested arbitrarily in Somalia in 2021, 12 were arrested in Somaliland, according to NUSOJ.
Somalia is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.