Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the illegal detention and reported torture of three journalists arrested in a raid on a TV channel in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. RSF calls on the authorities to immediately release the TV channel’s director, the only one of the three still detained, and to say where they are holding him.

Update on 16/01/2023: MM Somali TV director Mohamed Ilig was taken to Hargeisa Central Prison on January 15, after spending two days at the Criminal Investigation Department. On January 13, he was brought before the Hargeisa military court, a first for a journalist in Somaliland. Moreover, Mohamed Ilig has been denied legal representation in the totally unfair proceedings against him.

Somaliland intelligence officers raided the headquarters of privately-owned Maam Media TV (MM Somali TV) on 6 January and took director Mohamed Abdi Sheikh (usually known as Mohamed Ilig), reporter Mohamed Abdi Abdullahi and technician Ilyas Abdinasir to a secret location, where they were tortured, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

Abdullahi and Abdinasir were released on 9 January but Ilig is still being held incommunicado by the authorities. Somaliland is a self-proclaimed independent republic in northwestern Somalia that is not recognised by the international community.

The raid took place as Ilig was hosting a debate being live-streamed on X (the former Twitter) about a newly signed accord under which Somaliland is giving landlocked Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port of Berbera.

At a private meeting earlier on 6 January, Somaliland Information Minister Ali Hassan Mohamed had cautioned independent journalists and privately-owned media against covering issues related to the agreement. In particular, he advised them not to cover diplomatic reactions or any public demonstrations.

Nonetheless, after Ilig told the authorities that he was planning to organise a debate on his TV channel, they allowed the director of the Agency for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Preparedness, Faysal Ali Sheikh, to participate so that he could defend the agreement.

According to the information obtained by NUSOJ, the Somaliland authorities did not like the way debate was going during the MM Somali TV broadcast. The information minister did not respond to RSF’s requests for an interview.

Somaliland intelligence had two goals, to destroy MM Somali TV and to send journalists a message to remain quiet,” NUSOJ secretary general Omar Faruk Osman said. Five days after the raid, the TV channel’s headquarters is still closed.

The raid carried out by the Somaliland security forces was an arbitrary and irresponsible act that has seriously endangered one of the country's few independent TV channels. The media must be able to cover the country’s political developments without reprisals, even when their coverage displeases the authorities. Holding the three MM Somali TV employees incommunicado, in a completely illegal manner, and subjecting them to serious violence is intolerable and must not be repeated. Five days after his arrest, Mohamed Ilig is still detained in an unknown location. We demand his immediate release.

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

This is not the first time Ilig has been targeted by the Somaliland authorities. He was arrested on 13 April 2022 and was sentenced the following month to 16 months in prison for covering a riot at Hargeisa’s main prison, during which 15 journalists were arrested. He was finally released on a presidential pardon after being held for 82 days.

145/ 180
Score : 39.4
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