Ahmed-Zaki Ibrahim Mohamood and Abdinasir Abdi Nour should be unconditionally released by Somaliland’s government, and the press should not be subject to legal action for reporting on subjects of public interest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday.
According to separate statements made by the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA), a press rights organisation, and the Human Rights Center (HRC), a local non-governmental organisation, as well as by Mohamed Osman Mireh, who goes by Sayid and spoke to CPJ via messaging app, police detained Horyaal 24 TV broadcast reporters Ahmed-Zaki and Abdinasir on Thursday, August 11, as they covered opposition demonstrations in the region’s capital, Hargeisa
“It is frightening how frequently Somaliland government imprison journalists. The criminalization of media activity needs to stop, according to CPJ spokesman for sub-Saharan Africa Muthoki Mumo. “Authorities should stop targeting the press for its work and unconditionally free Ahmed-Zaki Ibrahim Mohamood and Abdinasir Abdi Nour of Horyaal 24 TV.”
According to media reports and a statement by the digital rights organisation Access Now, during the opposition protests on August 11—over an alleged attempt to delay the region’s presidential elections—several people were killed, Somaliland authorities disrupted internet access, and police detained at least 100 people.
On Monday, August 15, police took Ahmed-Zaki, Abdinasir, and several others arrested during the demonstrations to a regional court and accused the journalists of participating in the protests, according to Sayid. Police did not file charges, and the court ordered Ahmed-Zaki’s release after learning he was a journalist, Sayid told CPJ, adding that he did not know why the court did not order Abdinasir’s release.
Police did not release Ahmed-Zaki, Sayid told CPJ, adding that he did not know the authorities’ justification for continuing to hold him behind bars. In its statement, SOLJA said security agencies did not disclose which crimes the journalists were accused of committing.
Later that day, according to Sayid and an HRC tweet, Ahmed-Zaki and Abdinasir were relocated to Mandhera Prison, which is situated roughly 60 miles (95 kilometres) northeast of Hargeisa.
Both Attorney General Hasan Aden and Somaliland Police Commissioner General Mohamed Adan Saqadhi did not respond to CPJ’s calls, texts, or app messages.
Recent abuses of press freedom in Somaliland have been documented by CPJ, including a ban on the BBC in July and the detention of at least 18 journalists in April.