Crackdown on media workers continue

Human Rights Watch’s annual report issued in February 2018 noted that media workers in Somalia continue to face targeted attacks, including harassment and intimidation by federal and regional authorities as well as from the armed group Al-Shabab. In the Somaliland autonomous region, authorities continue to restrict public criticism. According to Amnesty International, more than 30 journalists were arrested and detained in 2017 in Somaliland for criticising the government.

Expression

Broadcast journalist arrested in Jubaland

On 8th February 2018, security forces in the semi-autonomous state of Jubaland arrested broadcast journalist Sabir Abdulkadir Warsame from the privately-owned Somali Cable TV, and held him for several days without charge in the state capital of Kismayo. According to an unnamed source, the journalist inadvertently filmed a vehicle carrying charcoal, the export of which is illegal in Somalia due to a 2012 UN Security Council resolution aimed at cutting off sources of financing for Al-Shabab.

In response to his arrest, Angela Quintal from the Committee to Protect Journalists declared that:

"Arresting and detaining Sabir Abdulkadir for simply doing his job as a journalist is outrageous…he should be immediately released without charge and free to continue reporting in the public interest".
Universal TV bureau chief arrested in Hargeisa

On 17th February 2018, Somaliland authorities arrested Mohamed Aabi Digaale, the Hargeisa bureau chief for the London-based Universal TV, and held him without charge for several days. On 19th February, authorities brought him to court where he was remanded to the Counter Terrorism Unit for seven more days pending further investigation. Court officials told the organisation HRC Somaliland that he was detained due to a report aired on Universal TV from Somaliland's Sanaag region. He was released on bail on 27th February and at the time of writing, no charges had been filed against him.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest, stating that:

“Mohamed Aabi Digaale’s detention is completely arbitrary and illegal…we call for his immediate release and we expect the authorities to respect press freedom, which is enshrined in Somaliland’s constitution”.
Journalist assaulted by Puntland presidential guards

According to the Media Association of Puntland, Khalif Gelle from Radio Garowe was assaulted by Puntland presidential guards while en-route to cover a graduation ceremony in Garowe on 25th February. The guards allegedly punched him repeatedly and kicked him in the face after he was knocked to the floor. The incident left him with a bloody nose and a severe injury to his right eye. 

Poet and peace activist arrested for spreading "unpatriotic propaganda"

On 6th March 2018, Somaliland poet and peace activist Naema Qorane was charged with spreading "unpatriotic propaganda" via Facebook, where she allegedly promoted the idea of a united Somalia.

She was arrested on 27th January after returning from Mogadishu where she had presented at a TEDx event and met with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

She was charged with "anti-national activity of a citizen abroad" (Article 212 of the Penal Code) and for "bringing the nation or the state into contempt" (Article 219(2) of the Penal Code). If found guilty, Naema could face more than eight years in prison.

Somaliland is a self-declared state which declared its independence in 1991, although it is internationally still recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. Somaliland authorities are sensitive about matters and opinions related to unification.