Journalist detained for questioning the Minister of Health
Terrorism, political instability and famine plague Somalia, causing widespread displacement and hunger. The situation is critical and according to the United Nations, the country is "on the edge of a catastrophic famine". In addition, UK and U.S. counter-terrorism laws hinder humanitarian aid relief to people living in Al-Shabaab controlled areas. As the crisis worsens, Somalis facing severe food shortages are not always able to speak out and petition the authorities to provide necessary services. In such a difficult context, any critical voice is quickly suppressed and many Somali journalists and activists have been forced to flee the country for their own safety.
On 24th May 2017, Mohamed Adan Dirir, editor of the online news portal Horseed Media, was detained in Hargeisa, Somaliland for asking a critical question of the Minister of Health, Saleban Isse Ahmed, at a press conference. Though not officially charged with any crime, Dirir remains in detention. Dirir's wife reported that her husband's health is deteriorating due to the unsanitary conditions in prison, stating that: “His health is not so good—And more worse, he cannot even get a single tablet let alone healthcare”.
His unjustified detention is in direct violation of Somaliland's constitution, which requires the authorities to charge or release an individual within 24 hours of making the arrest.
On 7th June 2017, the Media Association of Puntland published its first annual report, detailing the threats to and attacks on media outlets and media practitioners in the semi-autonomous region in northeastern Somalia. The report shows how the situation for freedom of expression only worsened last year, stating that:
"In 2016, press freedom in Puntland faced a more severe and diverse set of challenges than at any point in the past years, our media outlets and media practitioners have been victims of government censorship, intimidation, harassment and unlawful media closure".
Somalia currently ranks 167 out of 180 countries on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The dismal ranking in this year's Index reflects the serious threats, arbitrary detentions, killings and prosecution of journalists by the authorities and non-state actors, such as Al-Shabaab.