IFJ Demands Immediate Release of Somali Journalists Following Government Attacks on Media Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the severe and unwarranted action of Somali security forces who last Friday raided and closed independent radio stations in Mogadishu and arrested 19 media workers. Sixteen of the journalists were subsequently released, but three are still being held. The IFJ has demanded that the three remaining journalists are released immediately and expressed its concern for their safety and well-being amid reports they have been subjected to abuse and torture. According to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), at around 9:30am on Friday, 15 August, heavily armed security forces raided and shut down both Radio Shabelle and SkyFM, which are owned by Shabelle Media Network, and arrested media workers and journalists, including Shabelle chairman Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud. The action is believed to have been carried out in retaliation to news reports and interviews broadcast by the stations the night before in which they talked about an interview Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, had given to the US-based PBS television. A number of journalists and politicians interviewed by Shabelle strongly criticised the President’s response to a question regarding attacks on independent media in which he cited Al-Shabaab’s “infiltration” in some media houses. The NUSOJ has reported that 16 of the media workers were released, but three, including Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud, are still being held. The union says Abdimalik is in critical condition after eyewitness accounts reported that he was severely tortured inside the headquarters of Somalia's national intelligence security agency as officers coerced him to say that he is against the Somali government, the cabinet and the parliament. The two other journalists being held are also said to have been badly beaten and tortured. “The brutal and inhumane actions of the Somali security forces against these media workers are utterly deplorable and not only represent an attack on press freedom and freedom of speech, but on the basic human rights of all people established under international law,” said IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa. “The degrading treatment of these journalists is an appalling abuse of power. We demand that they are released immediately and receive the support and care they will certainly require after their horrific ordeal.” The NUSOJ has warned such violent actions could undermine hard-hitting journalism and the ability of Somali journalists and their media houses to operate independently in the country. “We strongly condemn the raids on and closure of Radio Shabelle and SkyFm and we demand that these media stations are allowed to resume their operations freely and that the intimidation and violation of press freedom in the country ends now,” said Costa. For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 17 The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries