Somaliland: media harassed for investigative reporting
In Somaliland, human rights defenders and journalists critical of the government often face harassment and intimidation. On 23rd January 2017, Abdirashid Nur Ways, chairman of the Hubsad newspaper, and its editor-in-chief, Said Khadar Abdilahi, appeared in court on charges of publishing false news and operating an unlicensed newspaper. The charges came after they covered a story on alleged irregularities in the sale of state-owned land. The two journalists were originally acquitted by the Hargeisa Regional Court in November 2016; however, the Attorney General petitioned an appeals court to overturn the ruling. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on 20th January 2017, calling on the Attorney General to drop his petition. CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator, Angela Quintal, declared in the statement:
"Abdirashid Nur Ways and Said Khadar Abdilahi should never have faced criminal charges in the first place. Pursuing journalists after a court has exonerated them lays bare the government's intention to intimidate the press."
On 4th February 2017, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chair of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) in Somaliland, was also arrested on charges of defamation and publication of false news leading to public disorder. He was held for several hours while being questioned about a HRC-led petition on police reforms. After issuing a press statement condemning the arrest, HRC spokesperson, Ahmed Hussein Abdi, was also detained. Police then questioned the editor-in-chief of Sahan newspaper, to which Mr. Guleid had given an interview discussing the petition. Although all three men were later released, Mr. Guleid is still facing charges.
On 20th February 2017, Somaliland police arrested Baashe Hassan, director of Star TV, accusing him of disturbing the public order after he criticised the government for allowing the United Arab Emirates to establish a military base in the self-declared autonomous republic. The military base in the port of Berbera has been a controversial issue, and authorities have repeatedly harassed or detained journalists who have reported on it. Hassan was later released on bail after five days in prison.