The IPI global network condemns Somali authorities’ freezing of bank accounts belonging to IPI member Somali Journalists Syndicate. Somalia must cease its harassment of SJS and its staff and allow the organization to operate freely.

A court on April 9 ordered Premier Bank So to freeze accounts belonging to SJS, claiming that SJS was not a “registered organization”. It also ordered Somalia’s attorney general to investigate the account holders. The court did not communicate its decision to SJS, according to the organization. SJS learned of the ruling when the bank sent a letter about the action.

The account freezing has negatively impacted SJS’s operations and advocacy activities including their training and mentorship program for journalists. SJS says the account freezing followed a recent submission it filed with the U.N. Human Rights Council in collaboration with Robert.F. Kennedy Human Rights. The submission details human rights violations targeting SJS Secretary General Abdalle Mumin, whom state security forces arbitrarily detained and tortured between 2022 and 2023 in reprisal for his work.

Somali journalists established SJS in May 2019 to defend the rights of journalists and promote press freedom. Last year, a global jury shortlisted SJS for the IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer award.

IPI Advocacy and Partnerships Lead Nompilo Simanje said: “IPI stands in solidarity with SJS and calls on the Somali authorities to ensure that civil society can operate without fear or intimidation. We call on the authorities to lift the freezing of SJS’s accounts and cease harassment of its staff. Instead of trying to intimidate human rights defenders, Somali authorities should focus on protecting journalist safety and ensuring justice for attacks on the press.”

Pattern of attacks on SJS

Authorities have targeted SJS, its staff, and its members on previous occasions. These include:

  • On October 10, 2022: National intelligence officers raided SJS offices after SJS criticized the government’s anti-terrorism directive. SJS raised concern that the government could use the directive to curtail freedom of expression
  • Authorities detained SJS Secretary General Abdalle Mumin on October 11, 2022 at the Mogadishu airport while attempting to travel to Nairobi for medical care. Mumin then spent 44 days in detention.
  • Authorities arrested SJS Information and Human Rights Secretary Mohamed Bulbul on August 17, 2023. A court ordered his release 56 days later.
  • The SJS website was targeted by a DDoS attack on August 17, 2023. The attack lasted for two weeks.
  • National intelligence officers disrupted an SJS training for women journalists in Mogadishu on January 20, 2024. The officers reportedly demanded confidential information about the participants. They continued to harass participants despite SJS advising them that their actions violated media freedom and the right to privacy
  • On March 10, 2024, media stations were reportedly directed to stop coverage of the SJS annual report.

Additionally, on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists in 2023, IPI and SJS submitted a letter to the authorities expressing concern about the state of press freedom in Somalia. The letter also requested information on the status of investigations into 11 killed journalists.