The long running civil war in Somalia and increased reports of violence committed by both government forces and Al Shabaab extremist group continue to affect civilians and the human rights situation in the country. Human rights defenders have been caught in the crossfire of attacks from both the state and non-state actors, and have faced an onslaught on their rights to life, security and freedom from arbitrary detention.
There has been a crackdown on media houses that are critical of the government, and Al Shabaab regularly threatens and kill HRDs speaking out on the widespread human rights violations across the country. Somalia’s next presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2016, are likely to place independent civil society and media at heightened risk.
Though not recognised internationally, Somaliland has its own government institution, police force and currency. The Somaliland Government has arbitrarily detained journalists for reporting on sensitive political issues without regard to due process.
Freedom of expression
On 29 December 2015, the Somali Federal Parliament passed a media law that was signed into law on 9 January 2016 by the President of Somalia. The law contains several provisions that infringe on media freedoms. Articles 18 and 35 place restrictions on who can practice journalism. Journalists must be examined by the Media Council before they can be officially registered by the Ministry of Information. Journalists have expressed concern that the registration should be administered by an independent body to guarantee impartiality. Article 25 of the Media Law empowers the courts to order a confidential source be revealed, a provision which has been included in several other media laws in the sub-region. Journalists and media houses that contravene this law can face excessive fines between 500 and 3000 US Dollars.
Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. It is ranked 172 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 41 journalists have been killed in Somalia between 1992 and 2015. Despite the fact that Somalia committed to eradicate continued impunity for perpetrators of the violations of the right to freedom of expression during its 2011 Universal Periodic Review, little has been done to that effect. There is a trend of inadequate criminal investigations into violations committed against HRDs.
On 18 December 2015, Abdirisak Ahmed, a freelance journalist, was arrested by the Somali National Intelligence Security Agency along with Star FM reporter Abukar Mohamed in Mogadishu. Abukar Mohamed was released without charge the following day, however Abdirisak Ahmed has remained detained at Godka Jilacow prison to date. He has neither been charged with an offence, nor brought before a court or granted access to visits. In November 2014, Abdirisak has been held for four days before he was eventually released.
On 4 December, female journalist Hindiya Mohamed was badly wounded by a bomb planted in her car and later succumbed to the injuries. Hindiya was a producer and reporter with the state-run outlets Radio Mogadishu and Somali National TV. Al Shabaab terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack. A military Court in Mogadishu upheld the sentence imposed on the six people responsible for Hindiya’s murder.
On 30 November 2015, Abdirashid Nur, Chairman of Husbad Newspaper and Said Khadar, Editor-in-Chief of Husbad Newspaper were arrested in Hargesia, Somaliland. Before their arrest, Abdirashid and Said appeared at the Attorney General’s Office to register the change in leadership and ownership of their newspaper, but were instead sent to the police station on the Attorney General’s orders where they were arrested. They were released on 3 December 2015, and later charged with publication or circulation of false, exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing the public order, and unauthorised business or prohibited business agencies and public trading concerns. If convicted the journalists could face one or more years in prison and the revocation of the newspaper’s license.
In November 2015, Jama Deperani a reporter and presenter with Somalia Channel TV was summoned by the Garowe Police and arrested without charge. Jama Deperani produced and presented a critical talk show consisting of interviews with politicians. A few weeks before his arrest he had interviewed the Minister of Information. The Ministry also ordered privately owned Somali Channel TV to temporarily suspend Deperani. He was eventually released on 29 November 2015.
On 2 October 2015, Abdullahi Hersi, East Africa director, and Awil Dahir Salad, a producer of privately-owned Universal TV in Mogadishu were arrested after agents of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) raided the station. Although the journalists were not charged, they were remanded in Godka Jilacow prison and NISA given 21 days to conduct its investigations. They were denied access to a lawyer and Universal TV’s broadcast signal was suspended indefinitely.
 Between A Rock And A Hard Place, Human Rights Defenders Under Attack In Somalia and Somaliland, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, February 2016 https://www.defenddefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Between-a-rock-and-hard-place-human-rights-defenders-under-attack-in-Somalia-and-Somaliland.pdf
 “Somalia: DefendDefenders Calls For The Immediate Release Of Journalist Abdirisak Ahmed”, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, 22 December 2015, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/12/3574/
 “Somalia: EHAHRDP strongly condemns targeted killing of journalist in car bomb attack yesterday”, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, 4 December 2015, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/12/statement-fifth-journalist-killed-in-somalia-this-year-in-car-bomb-attack/
 “Six sentenced in killing of journalist in Somalia”, Committee to Protect Journalists, 23 March 2016, https://cpj.org/2016/03/six-sentenced-in-killing-of-journalist-in-somalia.php
 “Puntland: Release Journalist Jama Deperani”, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, 15 November 2015, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/11/puntland-release-journalist-jama-deperani/
 “Somalia: EHAHRDP Calls For The Immediate And Unconditional Release of Two Universal TV Journalists And Resumption of The Broadcast After Latest Government Crackdown”, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, 6 October 2015, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/10/somalia-ehahrdp-calls-for-the-immediate-and-unconditional-release-of-two-universal-tv-journalists-and-resumption-of-the-broadcast-after-latest-government-crackdown/ Accessed 25 March 2016