Journalist arrested and charged for expressing political views
Violence and threats against media professionals remain a serious and ongoing issue in Somalia and Somaliland. Over the past several months there have been numerous recorded cases of kidnappings, arrests and attacks on media by government officials and non-state actors, including extremist group Al-Shabaab. The following are just some of the abuses and violations which have taken place in recent weeks:
- On 15th February 2017, Abdimalik Muse Oldon, an independent journalist and blogger, was detained upon his return from Mogadishu at the airport in Hargeisa after meeting with the newly-elected president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. Oldon was arrested for expressing political views in opposition to those of the government of Somaliland. On 8th April 2017, a regional court in Hargeisa sentenced Oldon to two years in prison on charges of anti-nationalist activities and endangering peace and security.
- On 20th February 2017, Mohamed Baashe Hassan, Director of Star TV, was arrested by police after criticising the Somaliland government for allowing the United Arab Emirates to build a military base in the port of Berbera.
- On 5th March 2017, the Puntland Ministry of Information prohibited Universal TV from operating in regions controlled by Puntland authorities. The station was accused of broadcasting false news that threatened the peace and stability of the state. The news channel had recently aired a feature critical of Puntland President, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas. The ban on its operations was later lifted.
- On 1st April 2017, Hanad Ali Guled, editor of Goobjoog Radio, was kidnapped by an unknown group of armed men and found two days later after escaping his captors. He had been tortured while in captivity. Prior to his kidnapping, Guled had received numerous threats for being actively involved in drought relief efforts with the campaign Media for Aid.
- On 11th April 2017, Abdirahman Arab Da’ud of Hangool News was arrested by Somaliland police for writing an article accusing the police commissioner of nepotism.
- On 15th April 2017, the editor of Hangool News, Ibrahim Osman Ahmed, turned himself in to authorities to secure the release of his colleague, Arab Da’ud. Since then, he has been held in Hargeisa's central police station without any formal charges, which is illegal under the Somaliland constitution.
Somalia remains a dangerous place for international and domestic organisations working to address the country's serious humanitarian issues. Aid workers are constantly under threat, especially when carrying out fieldwork and in the southern parts of Somalia where Al-Shabaab dominates. Aid organisations are primary targets, mainly due to their association with foreign governments that support the war on terrorism. Thus, they are viewed as spies and a threat to Somalia's internal security. In April alone, there were several cases of aid workers being kidnapped, threatened and attacked.
On 4th April 2017, four aid workers with the World Health Organisation were kidnapped by members of the militant group Al-Shabaab. On 19th April 2017, a convoy with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Red Crescent was attacked by a bomb on its way to deliver aid to drought-stricken regions of Somalia. This event occurred after it was announced that the UAE would expand its investments in Somalia. Many non-state actors, such as Al-Shabaab, view this as a threat.