Tuesday April 19, 2022
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its local partner, the
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), condemn the continuing detention
of 14 journalists, who were arrested yesterday in connection with their
coverage of a prison riot in Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia, and call for
their unconditional release.
The arrests, which are without precedent in recent years,
began when reporters went to cover a riot in the main prison in Hargeisa, the
capital of Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent republic that is not
recognised by the international community.
Ten journalists were initially arrested outside the prison
in the afternoon. They included two women who were later released. The police
arrested another seven journalists and seized several cameras when they went to
the headquarters of Horn Cable TV in the evening to prevent any coverage of the
riot by this independent broadcaster.
In the end, a total of 14 journalists spent the night in the
detention centre controlled by the Hargeisa central police intelligence
department, and they were still being held when this press release was written.
According to the information obtained by NUSOJ, the detained
journalists work for MMTV, BBC, SAAB TV, CBA TV, Goodjoog TV and Bulsho TV, as
well as HornCable TV.
“These journalists committed no crime and were just doing
their job,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “They have
absolutely no place being in prison and must be released unconditionally. By
hounding journalists and media outlets in recent years, Somaliland – which is
seeking recognition – has distinguished itself from the other Somali states by
the systematic nature of its persecution of media workers.”
“This is the biggest wave of arrests of journalists for
years anywhere in Somalia,” NUSOJ secretary general Omar Faruk Osman said. “The
police have a duty to protect them, not to deprive them of their freedom. They
must be freed at once.”
Calls and messages from RSF and NUSOJ to Somaliland interior
minister Mohamed Kahin Ahmed remained unanswered.
Since 2020, RSF has been calling on the Somali governmental
authorities to honour their pledge to decree a moratorium on detaining
journalists for offences allegedly committed in the course of their work. The
call was backed by the European Parliament in a resolution in 2021 that asked
the Somali Prime Minister to declare the promised moratorium as soon as
Somaliland harasses journalists more than any other state in
Somalia. Of the 34 journalists arrested arbitrarily in Somalia in 2021, 12 were
arrested in Somaliland, according to NUSOJ.
Somalia is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021
World Press Freedom Index.