Journalist Abdulkadir Barre Moallim (second person from left) with fellow colleagues at NUSOJ General Assembly in August 2019 in Mogadishu

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is shocked and alarmed by the continued arbitrary detention of an independent journalist in Baidoa city by the security forces of Southwest regional state on Wednesday, 25 September 2019 at around 22:30, in apparent attempt to intimidate the journalist and the independent media with aim of silencing them without any legal basis.

The journalist Abdulkadir Barre Moallim – who was arrested with a humanitarian activist Liban Ibrahim Midnimo – was detained for covering a press conference by local elders who reportedly condemned the move to block former Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and his delegation of Himilo Qaran Political Party from traveling to Kismayo, Jubbaland. The news report by journalist Abdulkadir Barre Moallim, were broadcasted by the local media. Abdulkadir Barre is an active member of NUSOJ’s Southwest branch and recently returned from after attending NUSOJ General Assembly.

“We consider the arbitrary arrest and the continued detention of journalist Abdulkadir Barre Moallim as an act of intimidation aimed at stopping a journalist from exposing uncomfortable truths in the Southwest State,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “The continued detention of Abdulkadir Barre Moallim is nothing else but part of intense and sustained attacks on freedom of expression by the Southwest State”.

Recently, attacks on journalists have grown more frequently. Only last month, several journalists in Baidoa were threatened and intimidated because of the events they have reported on. Following the arrest of Abdulkadir Barre Moallim, three other journalists were questioned by security forces and they were threatened with arrests should they report on political activities that were not sanctioned by the regional administration.

NUSOJ has made several attempts, including persistent contacts with the senior officials of Southwest State, to secure the release of Abdulkadir Barre Moallim. But the union’s efforts had not borne fruits, in part because of blatant abuse of power at the highest level and total disregard of the basic rights of journalists and citizens to exercise the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Specifically, the South West State information minister, Ugas Hassan Abdi Mohamed, has failed to respond to appeals from NUSOJ, and it is widely believed that the decision to illegally arrest and detain was ordered by the Presidency of Southwest State, which makes difficult for regional ministers to intervene.

“Today, we loudly and clearly demand the immediate and unconditional release of Abdulkadir Barre Moallim who was arrested for exercising his right to free expression, and we equally call for an immediate end to attacks on journalists in Baidoa. Journalists in Southwest regions must be allowed to do their work without intimidation and harassment and we ask the regional administration to end the assaults and harassment and abide by the provisional constitution of the country,” declared Osman.

Abdulkadir Barre Moallim has been in custody for 14 days without official charges brought against them. NUSOJ can emphatically vouch that his only crime is to perform his journalistic duties.

For years, Southern regions of Somalia have never been an easy place for journalists but the state of media freedom in South West State has been deteriorating drastically since Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed “Lafta Gareen” became the President of the Regional State, with top security officials directly and publicly threatening journalists for unwarranted arrests and threats.

“This systematic harassment and intimidation of journalists in South West State by the security forces must end as they are only aimed at punishing journalists for their legitimate journalistic undertakings,” added Osman.

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