Countries

Somalia (and Somaliland)

Country Profile

While newly elected Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, has boasted that he would “eradicate” al-Shabaab within two years, the militant group has stepped up its attacks on military installations and civilian targets across the country in the last six months. These attacks came amid repeated warnings from the UN that the drought-stricken region is at risk of a massive famine that could endanger the lives of millions.[1]

[1] United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, “Somalia Still Under Threat of Famine, Warns Top US Official,” 5 September 2017, https://unsom.unmissions.org/somalia-still-under-threat-famine-warns-top-un-official, Accessed 24 October 2017.

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Freedom of Expression

Authorities in Somaliland arrested Mohamed Adan Dirir, editor of the online news service Horseed Media, after he asked a question to Health Minister Saleban Isee at a 24 May 2017 press conference. His question was allegedly critical of the minister’s performance, and implied the minister’s work may have been impaired by alcohol, which is banned in Somaliland. Mohamed was detained without charge for over a week, despite the fact that the Somaliland Constitution requires authorities to charge or release suspects within 48 hours of their arrest.[1]

On 7 June 2017, the Media Association of Puntland issued its first annual report, in which it outlined how media outlets and media practitioners in the semi-autonomous region have been systematically victims of government censorship, intimidation, harassment, and unlawful closure.[2]

On 2 July 2017, journalist and founder of Puntlandone.com, Ahmed Ali Kilwe, was arrested by security forces in Garowe in connection to a 23 June Facebook post in which he criticised the president of Puntland’s use of public funds.[3] According to the Media Association of Puntland, counterterrorism police arrested Ali Kilwe by order of the president for allegedly “posting articles impertinent to the Puntland President.”[4] He was released on 16 July.[5]

On 6 August 2017, Omar Saeed Mohammed, a journalist for the news website Horseed Media and the privately-owned Somali Cable TV channel, was arrested by security forces in Garowe. He was held incommunicado until his bail release on 12 August. The arrest was purportedly linked to a Facebook post Omar wrote on the alleged involvement of the Puntland president in a counterfeit money-printing scam.[6]

Goobjoog Media journalist Omar Ali Hassan Serbiya was arrested on 8 July 2017 at Egal Airport in Hargeisa, Somaliland, after arriving from Mogadishu where he is based. The journalist was held in an undisclosed location, without officially being charged. Somaliland’s Interior Minister Yasin Mohamud said that the arrest was in response to views Omar Ali had expressed on social media that purportedly threatened the “security and stability” of Somaliland.[7] The authorities released him on 11 July.[8]

On 6 July 2017, the Hargeisa Regional Court suspended five websites: (1) karinnews.com, (2) baraarugnews.com, (3) saylactoday.com, (4) haleelews.com, and (5) suradnews.com. According to the order, the Criminal Investigation Department and Hargeisa Regional Office of the Attorney General requested the suspension of the websites for publishing “false news against the clans that live together in the Republic of Somaliland [and] propaganda against the officials of the State of the Republic of Somaliland.” The suspended websites were neither informed of the charges nor given the opportunity to defend themselves.[9]

On 10 September 2017, a suicide bomber attacked a café in Beldweyne where members of the press often gather, killing Somali broadcast journalist Abdullahi Osman Moalim, working for Radio Codka Hiiraan and the state-owned broadcaster Jubbaland TV. Abdullahi and a group of other journalists were waiting in the café for a press briefing that was due to take place nearby. Two other journalists with Radio Codka Hiiraan were injured in the attack, and Abdi Shakur Mohamed Hassan, who works for Star FM Radio and Saab TV, and Abdulkadir Omar Ibrah, a correspondent for RTN TV and Simba Radio, sustained minor injuries and were later discharged from the hospital.[10]

Mohamed Adan Dirir, the editor of Horseed News and owner of the news website Saylactoday was arrested while covering a press conference at the Ministry of Education in Hargeisa on 16 September 2017. According to court documents, Mohamed was accused of false news and instigating the public to disobey the law. Mohamed’s arrest is allegedly linked to a series of online articles in which he allegedly accused a consortium of private schools of mismanagement and misconduct.[11]

Freelance video journalist Ali Nur Siad-Ahmed was killed in a massive truck bomb attack in Mogadishu on 14 October 2017 that left more than 300 civilians dead – estimates of the death toll vary wildly. Journalists Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle of Voice of America, Mohamed Omar Bakay of Goobjoog Radio, Abdullahi Osman of Mandeeq Radio, as well as freelance journalists Abdiqani Ali Adan and Ahmed Abdi Hadi were also wounded in the attack.[12]

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) handed back the main campus of Somalia’s National University in Mogadishu to the central government on 12 July 2017. The campus has been used as a base by AMISOM for 10 years, starting off as a small Forward Operating Base, and later developing into a battalion headquarters to coordinate operations against Al Shabaab in the capital.[13]

[1]     Committee to Protect Journalists, “Somaliland journalist held without charge for asking question at press conference,” 1 June 2017, https://cpj.org/2017/06/somaliland-journalist-held-without-charge-for-aski.php, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[2]     Media Association of Puntland, “Annual Report 2016,” 7 July 2017, http://mediapuntland.org/app/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2017-FINAL-MAP-ANNUAL-REPORT-FINANCIAL-AUDITED-STATEMENTS1.pdf, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[3]     Committee to Protect Journalists, “Puntland journalist jailed after criticizing president,” 7 July 2017, https://cpj.org/2017/07/puntland-journalist-jailed-after-criticizing-presi.php, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[4]     Media Association of Puntland, “Puntland: President uses ‘political weight’ to subvert freedom of expression,” 8 July 2017,  http://mediapuntland.org/puntland-president-uses-political-weight-to-subvert-freedom-of-expression/, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[5]     Media Association of Puntland, “Puntland: MAP eulogizes release of online journalist, demands for an end towards Gov’t’s’ unjust campaign against independent journalism,” 17 July 2017, http://mediapuntland.org/1327-2/, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[6]     Media Association of Puntland, “MAP Celebrates release of Journalist, demands Govt to retreat it’s attacks against Journalism work,” 12 August 2017, http://mediapuntland.org/1350-2/, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[7]     Committee to Protect Journalists, “TV journalist detained in Somaliland,” 11 July 2017, https://cpj.org/2017/07/tv-journalist-detained-in-somaliland.php, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[8]     Somalia Focus, “Somaliland releases the arrested journalist in Hargeisa on bail,” 11 July 2017, http://somaliafocus.com/somaliland-releases-the-arrested-journalist-in-hargeisa-on-bail/, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[9]     Human Rights Centre Somaliland, “Hargeisa Regional Court suspended five websites,” 15 July 2017, https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsCenterHargeisaSomaliland/posts/650427951828380, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[10]    Committee to Protect Journalists, “Somali journalist dies after suicide bomber targets café,” 14 September 2017, https://cpj.org/2017/09/somali-journalist-dies-after-suicide-bomber-target.php, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[11]    Committee to Protect Journalists, “Somaliland journalist detained on false news accusation,” 27 September 2017, https://cpj.org/2017/09/somaliland-journalist-detained-on-false-news-accus.php, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[12] Union of Somali Journalists, “Journalists among victims of massive truck bombing in Mogadishu,” 16 October 2017, http://www.nusoj.org/journalists-among-victims-of-massive-truck-bombing-in-mogadishu/, Accessed 20 October 2017.

[13]    AMISOM, “AMISOM hands over premier university to the Federal Government of Somalia,” 11 July 2017, http://amisom-au.org/2017/07/amisom-hands-over-premier-university-to-the-federal-government-of-somalia/, Accessed 29 September 2017.

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Publications

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Journalists as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa

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10 Year Anniversary Publication

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