Update: Omar Ali Hassan has been released
A Somali journalist was arrested without charge by Somaliland authorities on Saturday 8 July. The IFJ and its affiliate, The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemn the actions of the Somaliland government and demand his immediate release. The IFJ and NUSOJ are also calling on the Somaliland government to cease its continued harassment and intimidation of journalists working in the region.
Journalist Omar Ali Hassan, AKA Omar Serbiya was detained by Somaliland police upon arriving at Hargeisa Egal International Airport. Mr Hassan works for Mogadishu based independent radio station Goobjoog Media and was travelling from Mogadishu to Hargeisa with his wife when he was arrested by local police.
No charges or allegations have been levelled at Mr Hassan. Somaliland Interior Minister Yasin Mohamud Hiir has confirmed Hassan’s arrest but has not offered any details regarding its circumstances. According to NUSOJ, numerous Somali journalists believe Mr. Hassan’s arrest is part of a campaign by the northern breakaway government to pressure and deter journalists from working and cooperating with media outlets in areas controlled by from the central government in Mogadishu.
“The detention of Omar Ali Hassan and the other detained journalists in Puntland and Somaliland is unacceptable,” said IFJ President Phillipe Leruth. “These journalists are detained without official charges and are persecuted simply because their work is criminalized. Respect of press freedom is a core tenet of a democratic government and its high time Somali authorities grant journalists across the country free movement and the respect of their freedom of expression. The IFJ demands Omar Ali Hassan's and other detained Somali journalists' immediate release and extends this demand to the international organizations present in Somalia.”
The self-declared Republic of Somaliland operates autonomously from the Somali government but is not internationally recognized as an independent state. Last April independent Somali journalist Abdimalik Musse Oldon was convicted by the Somaliland Hargeisa Regional Court of “anti-national activity of a citizen abroad”. Mr Oldon was largely accused of comments made on social media against the Somaliland president as well as those made in support of the President of Somalia. Mr Oldon was sentenced to 2 years in prison but was released in May following a presidential pardon.
NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman is demanding “Hassan’s immediate and unconditional release. This situation must end. Freedom of movement is a central tenet of independent professional journalism and, in restricting such a right, Somaliland authorities are in breach of the right to report and international laws”.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 141 countries