Journalists detained without charge in Puntland and Somaliland

Journalist in Puntland released but facing travel restrictions

On 4th May 2018, authorities in Garowe, located in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, arrested journalist Ibrahim Obo Daud - also known as Suldan Godogodo - who runs Shacabka Media, a news website that covers Somalia with a focus on Puntland politics. The journalist is a Norwegian citizen and was visiting his family in Puntland at the time of the arrest. It is unclear what triggered the arrest, but he was held at Garowe Prison and allegedly denied medical care. On 20th May, he was finally released on bail, though no charges had been brought against him. His passport was confiscated and held by the Puntland's Grade 1 Court and he has been ordered to report to the office of the Puntland Attorney General every Saturday.

In regards to the arrest, the Puntland Media Guild declared that:

“Prolonged illegal detentions & use of administrative detention aimed at preventing the public voicing of independent opinions is dangerous and a threat to public interest. Puntland Authorities must drop the undefined charges against Godogodo”.

According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), this is not the first time that Puntland has held journalists without charge. In 2017, Omar Saeed Mohammed was detained for six days and Ahmed Ali Kilwe was detained for 12 days without charge.

Journalists detained and TV stations banned in Somaliland

Two journalists - Mohamed Ahmed Jama and Abdirahman Keyse Mohamed - covering the conflict between the breakaway Somaliland and Puntland regions were arrested in late May 2018. According to CPJ, they were arrested in the town of Las Anod in the contested Sool region and detained at a police station in Las Anod until 30th May before being transferred to the main detention center in the city. Neither were charged. They were granted bail and released on 31st May.

On 29th May 2018, Somaliland's Information Ministry banned SBS TV and another privately-owned station SOMNews. The Ministry of Information accused the stations of inaccurate reporting and carrying out a "propaganda war" against Somaliland.

Somaliland poet released

Somaliland poet Naima Ahmed Ibrahim Qorane was released from prison on 7th May 2018 after receiving a presidential pardon. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, she was arrested in late January 2018 and later sentenced to three years in prison for spreading "unpatriotic propaganda" by allegedly promoting the idea of a united Somalia on Facebook.

Director of Somaliland Human Rights Centre Guled Ahmed Jama responded to the release, stating that:

“I am glad that poet Naema Ahmed Ibrahim has been released on a presidential pardon…she should not have been arrested in the first place as the freedom of speech is protected by the constitution and international human rights law”.
UN calls for protection of journalists

Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. On World Press Freedom Day in May 2018, UN Special Representative Michael Keating called for space that would allow journalists to operate without fear, saying that:

“I salute the hundreds of Somali journalists who risk their lives on a regular basis to do their job…an essential component for the media to do its job is ending the culture of impunity that, unfortunately, prevails for crimes committed against journalists”.

Peaceful Assembly

Protesters arrested and injured in disputed Sool region

Police arrested more than 40 protesters for "destabilizing peace" in the Somaliland region on 28th May 2018. Protesters marched through the town of Las Anod, the capital of the disputed region of Sool, in support of rejoining the federal government based in Mogadishu. According to local sources, all those arrested have since been released. At least eight protesters were reportedly wounded by security forces, including women and children.