Authorities in Somalia’s south-central Hirshabelle state must stop intimidating and censoring the press through arbitrary arrests and station closures because they disagree with reported content, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On Friday afternoon, January 21, 2022, heavily armed Hirshabelle police in the regional capital of Beledweyne raided local independent radio station Hiiraan Weyn while it was on air, according to the station’s editor-in-chief Yasiin Ali Ahmed, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, a joint statement by the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA), and a statement by the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ). During the raid, officers forced the station off the air and detained seven journalists for six hours, according to those sources.
The raid followed the broadcasting of an interview with the Hiiraan People’s Liberation Front in Beledweyne, a group opposed to the current leadership in Hirshabelle, less than two hours earlier, according to the statement and Yasiin, who added that police used their weapons to break down a door to get into the station.
“The outrageous detention of the seven Hiiraan Weyn journalists and the temporary shutdown of the radio station shows a complete disregard for the right of journalists to work freely and without fear in Somalia,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Threatening journalists with death in a country that has a culture of impunity for the murder of journalists sends a chilling message. Those responsible, no matter how senior, must be held accountable and their behavior must not be condoned.”
With 25 murders in the past decade still unsolved, Somalia tops CPJ’s annual Global Impunity Index as the country with the world’s worst record for bringing killers of journalists to justice.
The seven detained journalists – Yasiin, Abdullahi Ali Abukar, Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, Abdisamad Elmi Abdi, Abdimajid Dahir, and Mustaf Ali Addow – were taken to the Beledweyne Police Station, where they were held for six hours and told by police that they were “terrorists” who would be shot and killed for reporting on the Hiiraan People’s Liberation Front, according to the joint statement and Yasiin.