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Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 02.02.2018 at 07:37


The long-running conflict involving extremist group Al-Shabaab and the Somali government, in addition to smaller conflicts with warlords over access to resources, continues to have a damaging effect on citizen’s basic freedoms, perpetuating a humanitarian crisis and displacement of the population.

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Journalists and critical voices face harsh crackdown

Journalists and critical voices face harsh crackdown

Journalists face arrest and assault while attempting to cover controversial issues and voice criticism of the government.

Looming famine amid forced eviction of IDPs

At a press conference in Nairobi on 17th January 2018, Peter de Clercq, humanitarian coordinator of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, declared that food security needs had nearly doubled in the country due to drought and insecurity which have caused nearly two million internally-displaced (IDP) Somalis. An estimated 1.2 million children face malnutrition in 2018, and de Clercq stated that 1.6 billion USD is urgently needed to save 5.4 million people facing starvation. Last year, a famine was averted due to an enhanced humanitarian response and increase in donor contributions. 

Despite the looming famine, forced evictions of IDP camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu on 29th and 30th December 2017 left more than 24,000 people homeless on the outskirts of the city. This includes about 3,000 children, according to a statement by UNICEF and Save the Children. An analysis of satellite imagery by Amnesty International shows several thousand makeshift buildings, including schools, community centres, health and sanitary facilities, latrines, and water points now reduced to rubble. It is still unclear what prompted the sudden demolition of the 23 IDP camps, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed the destruction cost more than 200,000 USD of donor money. Aid workers and journalists were allegedly barred from filming the demolition, and witnesses claim that military personnel beat anyone who tried to resist or question the demolition. The Somali government has promised an investigation into the incident. 


On 28th December 2017, Somali authorities arrested a correspondent with Nairobi-based RTN Somali channel and owner of local radio station City FM, Abdishakur Abdullahi Ahmed, also known as Shaasha in Hirshabelle state. Authorities have accused him of airing false news after he reportedly criticised the local administration. He was released on 8th January. 

On 7th January, a regional court in Borama, Somaliland, sentenced Kalsan TV journalist Mohamed Abdilaahi Dabshid and Ahmed Dirie Liltire, a journalist for SBC TV and Xeegonews to two years in prison on charges of "subversive and anti-national propaganda, bringing the Nation or the State into contempt, and bringing into contempt the flag or national emblem of a foreign state", according to a statement by the Human Rights Center-Somailand. The charges relate to an article allegedly published on Xeegonews claiming that Ethiopian militias are being trained in Awdal region. However, the Human Rights Centre -Somaliland and the Committee to Protect Journalists could not find the article allegedly published in Xeegonews . The two were arrested on 26th December 2017. 

According to the Media Association of Puntland, government forces physically assaulted five journalists on 13th January 2018 when they attempted to report on the arrival of visiting Somali Republic President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo at an airport in Galkaio. The journalists were denied entry into the airport to report the visit. Burhan Mohamed Abdi of Puntland TV, Abaadir Abdulkadir Cilmi of SBC TV, Jamal Farah Adan of Daljir Radio and Ahmed Abdirashid of Puntland TV were not seriously injured in the assault. Bahja Abdullahi Mohamed of Radio Codka Nabada and Star TV, however, sustained injuries to her face and was taken to a clinic soon after for treatment.


There is limited space for CSOs to operate due to the armed conflict in many parts of the country, though associational rights are technically guaranteed in the provisional Constitution.

There is limited space for CSOs to operate due to the armed conflict in many parts of the country, though associational rights are technically guaranteed in the provisional Constitution. In a positive development in August 2016, the government took the positive step of establishing a Human Rights Commission. Somalia also made commitments at the UN Human Rights Commission during its Universal Periodic Review, but these have not yet resulted in positive actions by the state. Many Somali CSOs now operate from Kenya because of numerous incidents of attacks, abductions and killings of CSO employees. In one incident in 2015, four aid workers were killed in a roadside bombing.

Operating without adequate oversight, the national intelligence agency routinely arrests and detains human rights activists, often with no formal charges pressed against them. On 21st July 2016, intelligence security officers arrested five employees of the Mogadishu Centre for Research and Studies and released them without charge after two months. The state also targets lawyers representing human rights activists. In 2015, human rights activists Otto Bihi and Suldaan Mohamed Muuse Cune were arrested for questioning why the presidential elections were postponed. Threatened activists are often later attacked, kidnapped or killed as a result of their work. Authorities also use the 1962 Penal code to harass human rights defenders, bringing charges against which include “instigation to disobey the laws and “publication or circulation of false, exaggerated and tendentious news capable of disturbing public order” among others.

Peaceful Assembly

The authorities rarely respect the freedom to assemble peacefully.

The authorities rarely respect the freedom to assemble peacefully. Despite clear protection for this right in Article 20 of Somalia’s constitution, the relevant minister regularly denies requests to gather, even if those meetings are small scale and held indoors. The intelligence services also interfere with the right to assemble and in July 2016 banned meetings organised by two separate clans to discuss forthcoming elections. In 2015, the state had also denied permission for the opposition party to hold a demonstration against a 22-month extension of the President’s term of office. Instead, authorities descended on peaceful marchers with violence. The state also has been reported to intimidate and threaten leaders of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions and the National Union of Somali Journalists.


Attacks on journalists continue in Somalia, although the provisional Constitution protects free speech.

Attacks on journalists continue in Somalia, although the provisional Constitution protects free speech. Al-Shabaab does not allow journalists to operate in the areas under its control and the internet is also banned in these places. Radio is a very popular medium in Somalia but like other journalists, radio journalists are often targeted for speaking their minds or sharing sensitive information. In December 2015, a reporter for the state media, Hindiya Haji Mohamed, was killed by a car bomb. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the killing. The state and its agencies also perpetrate intimidation and harassment against journalists. In 2015, 20 journalists were held after the Shabelle Media Network showed footage of an Al-Shabaab leader taking responsibility for a university bomb attack. The network had previously been closed for inciting violence. Other unknown forces also operate against the media, such as the gunman who shot and killed journalist Abdiaziz Mohamed in September 2016. Killings of journalists largely go investigated and arrests and prosecutions are rare. In a shocking case in 2015, a journalist was charged by a military court and executed for the alleged killing of other journalists. He had no legal representation. In 2015, gunmen broke into the house of journalist Daud Ali Omar and shot him dead along with his wife Hawo Abdi Aden. Death threats aimed at journalists are not uncommon. At the regulatory level, a media law introduced in January 2016 has been criticised for imposing heavy fines for breaches and because the law is likely to increase self-censorship.

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