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Somalia: Government Clampdown on Independent Media Houses and Freedom of Expression

The Somali government has repeatedly violated the human rights principles enshrined in the Provisional Constitution of Somalia promulgated on August 1, 2012, specifically, the right to freedom of expression and right of the media to disseminate information of public interest, as expressed in Chapter Two of the Constitution”, said the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) today.

Over the last few weeks , 19 media workers, including three prominent journalists of Shabelle Media Network were arrested, pressured to go off air and charged by the office of the Attorney General at Benadir Regional Court. Among the individual media personalities arrested and charged are Abdimalik Yusuf, Chairman of Shabelle Media Network, Mohamud Mohamed Dahir (Arab), Director of SkyFM and Ahmed Abdi Hassan, Deputy Editor of Radio Shabelle, all of whom were charged with violating articles 184, 220, 231, 320, 321 of the Somali Penal Code.

According to local sources, all three journalists were tortured inside the headquarters of NISA and were accused of “attack on the integrity, independence or the unity of the Somali state- highest treason (Article 184)”- a punishable offence by death penalty. Furthermore, the journalists were accused of “offense against the honour and prestige of the Head of State (Article 220)”. Other charges include: Public incitement (Article 231), Incitement to commit a crime (Article 320), Incitement to disobey the law (Article 321), Publication or dissemination of false, exaggerated or misleading information and likely to disturb public order (Article 328).

Following these violations, NISA arrested and arbitrarily detained Hassan Ali Geesey, Director of Radio Dalson for more than 24 hours. Subsequently, on 6th September, 2014, Mr. Mohamed Bashir Hashi, Editor of Radio Shabelle was sent to NISA prison in Godka Jilicow where he remains detained and without a formal charge. On the same evening, NISA shut down SIMBA Radio, arrested three journalists and seized their equipment. All three journalists are still being held by the authorities. On 7th September 2014, NISA also shut down Radio Kulmiye and arrested the Director Osman Abdullahi Gure along with Abdirahin Isse Adow, Director of Radio Mogadishu. Both were later released.

These charges are attacks on the freedom of the media and are also in violation of Article 19 inter alia; they illustrate an alarming targeting of journalists and media outlets working on promoting human rights. This is the second time that Shabelle Media Network has been targeted in the last two years by Somali authorities for simply engaging in its journalistic obligations.

“The harsh treatment by National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA) towards media workers is unwarranted and an infringement of their rights as enshrined in the Provisional Constitution of Somalia, and anchored in Articles 5 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” said Mr. Hassan Shire, Executive Director, EHAHRDP.

EHAHRDP urges key leaders of the Somali government to be committed to protect citizens and ensure the safety of members of the civil society including journalists and human rights defenders by immediately publicly condemning the unlawful arrests of journalists and media workers in the country, and enable them to exercise their right to freedom of expression. Moreover, if Somalia wants to go further in its democratization process in earnest, it must work for the furtherance of human rights, including the right of a free media and freedom of expression.

For more information, please contact:

Hassan Shire, Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 772 753 753

John Foley, Advocacy & Research Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 789 650996