Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled that the authorities in Garowe, the capital of northeastern Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region, arrested two journalists after first luring them with the promise of an interview about a controversial murder case.
The police arrested Radio Daljir director Khadar Awl Ismail and reporter Abdiqani Ahmed Mohamed when they went to Garowe’s court of first instance on 6 September in response to an invitation to interview the judicial authorities about the acquittal of the men accused of raping and murdering a woman in 2019.
The invitation was issued after the victim’s family denounced the defendants’ acquittal as a judicial travesty on the air on Radio Daljir.
The interview did not materialize. As soon as the two journalists arrived at the courthouse, they were arrested and taken to Garowe’s main prison. They were finally freed yesterday but continue to be subject to judicial proceedings even if they have not yet been told the charges, the station’s director said when reached by RSF as he left the prison.
“It is shocking that the judicial authorities arrest journalists after first luring them into a trap with the promise of an interview,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “These arrests are grossly unjust and trample on the most basic principles of law and public morality, which the authorities are supposed to embody. The authorities must drop the proceedings against these reporters, who were just doing their job, and must end all persecution of media and journalists in Puntland.”
RSF tried to reach Puntland’s president and interior minister by messages and emails but neither had responded at the time of writing this press release.
Puntland’s journalists are often subjected to intimidation, threats and arbitrary arrest. With 119 journalists, Radio Daljir is one of the region’s biggest and most popular media outlets and is often attacked over its reporting. Radio Daljir journalists have been arrested three times since the start of the year.
Former Radio Daljir director Ahmed Sheikh Mohamed, also known as “Tallman,” was jailed for several weeksa year ago after reporting that a detainee had died after being tortured during police interrogation.
RSF has for months been calling for a moratorium on arrests of journalists in Somalia. The moratorium was proposed to then Prime Minister Hassane Ali Khayre during a meeting in Paris last November and in a letter sent to President Mohamed Farmaajo after the publication of RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
Somalia is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2020 Index.