Journalists face attacks, arrests and murder in line of duty

On 1st May 2019, The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and several civil society organisations resolved to work together to stabilise the country which has faced security challenges for the past three decades. AMISOM said it had reached an agreement with civil society representatives to enact programmes to empower citizens to participate actively in the affairs of the country. The following day on 2nd May, AMISOM launched a training programme on human rights for Somali security forces to enhance their compliance with international human rights law. AMISOM has intensified training programmes on human rights to prepare Somali security forces to assume responsibility for the country's security in accordance with the dictates of the Somalia Transition Plan and UN Security Council resolution 2431 of 2018.

On 16th September 2019, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga, gave an oral update at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva ahead of his report scheduled for release at the end of September. In the update, Nyanduga noted considerable progress in establishing conditions for the enjoyment of human rights in Somalia despite challenges including terror attacks, insecurity, human rights violations, poverty and inter-clan conflicts. He urged the international community to support the country and proposed a set of recommendations for lasting peace and reconciliation.

Peaceful Assembly

Throughout March and April 2019, women in Galkayo, in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, demonstrated against the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl, in what they say is a recent surge in rapes in the area. A video of the impassioned protest has since gone viral. In the clip, two unidentified women appeal to the authorities and tribal leaders to find the perpetrators who violently raped and murdered the girl in early March.


Journalists call for approval of media law by parliament

On 3rd May 2019, Somali journalists joined their colleagues across the globe in marking World Press Freedom Day by calling on the country's lawmakers to approve the media law to help guide and legitimise their operations. The journalists said that the law is in line with international standards, and they also called on authorities to end illegal detection, arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment against journalists and media workers.

Journalists and media outlets face sporadic attacks

Ten armed individuals, including nine in police uniform, who claimed to be attached to Somalia's revenue authority, stormed the offices of Universal TV in Mogadishu on 30th March 2019 and started shooting inside the building. Some equipment was damaged and programming was disrupted during the morning, but no casualties were reported. Military guards from the nearby presidential palace arrived at the station and disarmed and detained the ten men. The motive for the attack remains unclear.

CPJ's Sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo said:

"This attack on Universal TV is outrageous and an unfortunate reminder that Somali journalists cannot expect safety, even in their own offices… Authorities need to guard against impunity by credibly investigating this attack and ensuring those responsible are prosecuted."

In a separate incident, on 13th July 2019, 43 year-old Canadian journalist and writer Hodan Nalayeh was killed during a 14 hour hotel siege carried out by Al Shabab in Kismayo. Her husband Farid Jama Suleiman was also killed in the attack along with 26 others.

Arrests of journalists - the norm

Journalists continue to face arrest as they undertake their legitimate work across the country, as several incidents have been reported.

On 13th May 2019, in Las Anod, Somaliland, television reporter Abdirahman Keyse Mohamed was injured during arrest and jailed without formal charge. Police arrested Mohamed after he conducted interviews with citizens in regard to the arrest of a member of parliament. He was detained on accusations that he was spreading anti-national propaganda, false news, and defying police orders not to record interviews. Police fired shots in the ground, resulting in debris hitting Mohamed in the leg. On 15th May, a Las Anod court ordered that Mohamed be detained in Las Anod prison for seven more days without charge following a request from local authorities.

On 30th July 2019, police in Somaliland arrested four journalists from privately owned Eryal TV, and released all but one several hours later. They had been covering a student protest.

On 5th September 2019, police in Somaliland summoned Mohamed Osman Mireh, the owner of Horyaal 24 TV and questioned him about a programme recently aired regarding women’s consumption of the stimulant khat which, while legal in Somaliland, remains a taboo subject. The following day, police raided the Horyaal 24 TV headquarters in Hargeisa, ordered its staff off the premises, and on 7th September arrested Mohamed. Police previously raided the office and shut it down on 18th June 2019, but the ban was later lifted.

On 10th September 2019, police in Somaliland arrested Abdikani Abdullahi Ahmed, also known as Asporo, the chief editor of privately-owned political news website HadhwanaagNews, and on the following day arrested Abdirisak Gooth Nur, the outlet’s general director. The arrests were preceded by a Hargeisa court ruling on 3rd September that ordered Internet providers to block the website throughout Somaliland following the outlet’s August 18th publication of an opinion piece that levelled corruption allegations against the governor of Somaliland’s central bank.

Kenyan ambassador summoned over tweet

Somalia summoned the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia and handed him a protest note over an "offensive tweet" by Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The tweet, from 27th June 2019, posted on Kenya's official Ministry of Foreign Affairs account, showed a photo of a senior Kenyan official holding a meeting with a minister from the self-declared republic of Somaliland. The tweet indirectly referred to Somaliland as a country. The status of the self-declared republic in the international community, and at home, remains contentious. In July, Somalia cut diplomatic ties with Guinea after the west African nation hosted the President of the breakaway republic. In mid-September, Somaliland announced tough conditions for future dialogue with Somalia on bilateral relations after the last talks collapsed in Turkey in 2015, including demands that Mogadishu recognise Somaliland as an independent country, and that international intergovernmental organisations and institutions use the name, map, emblem and flag of Somaliland in their project documents.