IFJ Condemns Arrests of Journalist, Union Leaders in Somalia

18 December 2006

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today renewed its call for an end to the violence and threats against journalists in Somalia, a day after the arrests of a journalist and two union leaders.

The journalist, Mohamed Amin Adan Abdulle, was arrested and detained on Sunday related to accusations of biased reporting. The reasons for the arrest of the two leaders of the National Union of the Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) are unknown. They were later released but authorities are now searching their personal and union documents and communications.

“The Islamic Courts must immediately stop their examination of NUSOJ’s professional and private documents and communications,” said Gabriel Baglo the Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “NUSOJ and independent journalists in Somalia have faced a barrage of threats and violence from authorities, militias and others with tragic results this year. We are calling on authorities to ensure that these attacks and intimidation end right away.”

NUSOJ General Secretary Omar Faruk Osman and Organising Secretary Ali Moalim Isak were arrested in the Mogadishu by airport security as Osman was about to take a flight to Dubai on union business. Isak was driving Osman to the airport.

The union officials were released on bail that night, granted by Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Monsur, deputy chief of security for the Union of Islamic Courts, after NUSOJ officials lobbied for their release. Security officials are still examining documents, laptops, passports and mobile phones belonging to the union leaders.

“We condemn the detention of Mohamed Amin Adan Abdulle and the arrest of NUSOJ leaders,” Baglo said. “This scrutiny of union documents is an unacceptable press freedom violation. We call on the Islamic Courts to take strong measures for the release of Mohamed and for the NUSOJ documents to be immediately returned to the union.”

Abdulle, a journalist working for the Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), a TV and radio broadcaster based in Mogadishu, was arrested on Sunday by the Middle Shabelle (North of Mogadishu) Administration. The administration established by the Islamic Courts has accused him of reporting false information. Abdulle is due to appear in court today.

NUSOJ, the Uganda Journalists Union (UJU) and the East African Journalists Association (EAJA) also condemned this attack on the press.

NUSOJ is asking the Middle Shabelle Administration not to set a punitive sentence for Abdulle and to ensure his safety, said Abdirisaq Omar Ismail, Chairman of the Supreme Council of NUSOJ. The union is also appealing to the Islamic Courts to get the confiscated documents returned.

The IFJ has also been informed of the release of the journalist Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled after he spent 15 days in jail. Guled, a stringer for the Mogadishu-based radio station Simba, was held by the authorities in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, Somalia, on claims he aired reports allegedly supporting the Islamic Courts. The IFJ calls on the Puntland authorities to allow him to return to work and to ensure he can work freely and safely.

Journalists in Somalia have been under tremendous pressure this year as they have faced numerous threats, arrests and pressure on their union. The threats and pressure lead to the tragic deaths of a foreign journalist and a Somali media worker earlier this year.

Swedish cameraman Martin Adler was shot dead by an unknown assailant while filming a demonstration in the capital Mogadishu in June. In August, driver Madey Garas was killed when unknown gunmen fired on a car carrying NUSOJ officials. Two journalists were killed in Somalia in 2005.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries