Massive wave of arrests in Somaliland : 14 journalists behind bars
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its local partner, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), condemn the continuing detention of 14 journalists, who were arrested yesterday in connection with their coverage of a prison riot in Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia, and call for their unconditional release.
14 journalists are currently arbitrarily detained by the authorities of Somaliland, a state which declared itself independent from Somalia but which is not recognized by the international community. This wave of arrests, unprecedented in recent years, came as several reporters went yesterday, Wednesday April 13, to the central prison in Hargeisa, the regional capital, where a riot had broken out between guards and prisoners.
A first wave of arrests of ten journalists, including two women who have since been released, first took place yesterday afternoon near the prison. In the evening, the police also went to the headquarters of the independent channel Horn Cable TV, with the aim of preventing any dissemination of information relating to these events. Several cameras were seized and 7 editorial journalists were arrested.
According to information gathered by the National Union of Somali Journalists (Nusoj), RSF's partner organization in Somalia, the journalists arrested since yesterday and still detained work for MMTV, BBC, SAAB TV, CBA TV, Goodjoog TV, Bulsho TV and Horn Cable TV.
“These journalists committed no offense and were just doing their job. They have absolutely no place in prison and must be released unconditionally, says RSF Africa bureau chief Arnaud Froger. By multiplying attacks against journalists and the media for several years, Somaliland, which is seeking recognition, mainly distinguishes itself from other Somali states by the systematic nature of its repression of journalists”.
“This is the biggest wave of arrests of journalists in years across the country,” said Nusoj Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman. The police have a duty to protect them, not to deprive them of their liberty. They must be released immediately.”
Calls and messages from RSF and Nusoj to Somaliland Interior Minister Mohamed Kahin Ahmed went unanswered.
Since 2020, RSF has been asking Somali government authorities to honor their commitment to decree a moratorium on custodial measures targeting journalists for alleged offenses committed in the exercise of their function. A call supported by the European Parliament which, in 2021, adopted a resolution asking the Somali Prime Minister to put in place the promised moratorium as soon as possible.
Somaliland is the most repressive state against Somali journalists. In 2021, 12 journalists were arbitrarily arrested there out of a total of 34 in the country according to Nusoj.
Somalia ranks 161st out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by RSF in 2021.