The IPI global network is increasingly concerned about the deteriorating press freedom situation in Somalia after seven journalists were assaulted or detained in December 2022 alone. IPI reiterates its call on authorities to stop all attacks on press freedom and respect independent journalism.
On December 22, security forces raided a local radio station, Radio Hiiraanweyn, and detained four journalists, Abdullahi Osman Idow, Mustaf Ali Adow, Abdirahman Moalim Muse, and Abdimajid Abdirahman Adan over a report on alleged attacks by the armed group Al-Shabab in villages in the city of Beledweyne. The security forces also forced the closure of the radio station. On December 18, 2022, security forces detained journalist Jamal Muhumed at Mogadishu airport upon his arrival from London. On December 19, 2022, security forces assaulted journalist Nur Mohamed while covering a sitting of parliament. On December 3, 2022, security forces detained journalist Hashim Omar Hassan over a Facebook post.
There have also been other forms of government pressure recently. On December 17, according to the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), officials at the President’s Communications Office called local media directors and instructed them that they should submit their news stories in a word document before any broadcast. This is a second move of interference in the space of three months by the authorities in an attempt to control the free flow of public information. In October similar directives were given to media houses in relation to coverage of terrorism, which triggered condemnation, and led to the harassment of the secretary general of SJS, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, who had his first court appearance on January 4 after being detained several times in the fall.
Abdalle Mumin was first arrested on October 11 and later released on bail, before being detained again and once again freed on bail. The harassment of him and the outrageous conditions placed on his freedom clearly suggest an effort by the authorities to muzzle him due to his work as a press advocate.
Meanwhile, the country’s volatile security situation remains a threat to journalists. On January 4, 2023, a journalist working for SNTV News, Khalid Muhumad Osman, was seriously injured in a double car bombing attack by the armed group, Al-Shabab, in Mahas district, Hiran region, in central Somalia. In October 2022, journalist Abdullahi Jama was killed in a similar bomb attack in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Several other media workers were injured in that attack.
“Somali authorities must stop harassing journalists and media freedom defenders in the country”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “While we acknowledge Somalia’s serious security challenges, the government’s obligation to respect press freedom does not disappear during times of conflict. Indeed, journalists and other public watchdogs, including civil society groups that defend press freedom, play an essential role in making democracies stronger and safer.”
She added: “We reiterate our call on the authorities to immediately cease the ongoing harassment of Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, who is clearly being targeted for his advocacy work in defence of press freedom. This prosecution is a serious violation of Abdalle Mumin’s right to freedom of expression and casts a chilling effect on human rights advocacy in Somalia.”