Khadar Abdi Asan, a freelancer who works for SomSat Channel TV, was beaten by a group of unidentified men who told him to cease his investigative reporting about Muse Bihi Abdi, the head of the ruling Kulmiye party and a candidate in next year’s presidential election.
Asan has been investigating the ethics of government members. Questioned by the Somaliland Informer news website, he accused the ruling party of organizing, planning and carrying out the attack.
Some government officials, such as presidential affairs minister Mahmoud Hashi Abdi, do not seem to welcome close scrutiny by reporters. Abdi said: “We liberated this country from warlords who were blackmailing the people with their guns. We will liberate our country from these pirates with pen.”
The Somaliland Online Media Association (SOMA), a Hargeisa-based journalists’ collective, immediately condemned the minister’s statement and called on human rights and media defence groups to react.
“It is incredible that, to defend himself from the accusations of embezzlement levelled against him, presidential affairs minister Mahmoud Hashi Abdi should publicly flout his own country’s constitution, article 32 of which guarantees freedom of information,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said.
“We firmly condemn these public threats by a government minister and we voice concern about the systematic use of threats against media outlets and journalists whenever a report is published raising questions about the activities of government officials.”
Abdirashid Abdiwahaab Ibraahim, the publisher of the newspaper Foore, and his editor, Mohamed Mahamoud Yousuf, were arrested in June while covering an agreement between the Somaliland government and the company DP World for the management of the port of Berbera.
They were charged with “publishing false news calling for sedition” and “subversive or anti-national propaganda.”
RSF is also concerned about the arbitrary detention of Said Mohamoud Gahayr, a freelance journalist, teacher and poet. Held for the past five weeks in Hargeisa prison, he is serving a two-month extrajudicial sentence for “sedition and insurrection.” He was arrested on 20 August after the appearance of articles on social networks about a corruption case allegedly involving the presidential affairs minister.
Journalists are often the targets of threats and attacks by the authorities in Somaliland. The recent attacks on journalists are particularly worrying in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.