Somali Journalists Detained by Police, Threatened with Death
Heavily armed police detained seven Somali journalists, accused them of being terrorists and threatened with death for their critical reporting on state officials, the Premium Times reported on Saturday.
In the city of Beledweyne, officers raided the independent radio station Hiiraan Weyn and forcefully terminated its broadcasting before detaining the journalists for several hours.
The raid came two hours after a broadcasted interview with the Hiiraan People’s Liberation Front, a group opposed to the current state leadership.
Yasiin Ali Ahmed, the station’s editor-in-chief, said that police used their weapons to break down a door in order to gain entry into the building.
The raid was condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who called the police’s tactics arbitrary in light of their disagreement with Hiiraan Weyn’s content.
“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 CPJ Africa program coordinator Angela Quintal.
Kept at the Beledweyne police station for several hours, the journalists were accused of being terrorists by local authorities, who further threatened to shoot them to death should they continue their critical reporting of state officials.
“We were detained without access to a lawyer or anyone,” Yasiin said. “We were told that if we were arrested again, we would be killed.”
Afterwards, they were transported to a house where the state deputy president, the state police chief, and a national army commander were waiting to have a little chat with them.
The three officials also threatened the journalists, saying they would be killed should they find themselves arrested again for their reporting.
Word of their detainment sparked widespread calls for release by journalists and human rights groups. Eventually, the seven were freed with no charges being filed.
Somalia is cited as the world’s worst country for unsolved killings of journalists, according to CPJ’s most recent annual Global Impunity Index.
The report highlights how victims are singled out for being members of the press, while their murderers remain at large.
“Threatening journalists with death in a country that has a culture of impunity for the murder of journalists sends a chilling message,” Quintal said.
Despite now having to live under the shroud of a potential violent death, the team remains resolute in not bowing down to the will of authoritarian rulers.
“We will continue to do our work until we get justice or die,” Yasiin said.
The day after the raid, Hiiraan Weyn was back on the air.