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Appalling Torture and Illegal Detention of Journalists in Somaliland Strangles Independent Journalism

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is profoundly horrified by the continued mistreatment of journalists from MM Somali TV, who were violently raided, physically assaulted, had their equipment destroyed and confiscated, and were unjustly detained by Somaliland security forces on January 6, 2024.

It has now been over 65 hours, at the time of issuing this statement, which significantly exceeds the 48-hour legal limit for arrested individuals to be brought to court. Journalists Mohamed Abdi Sheikh (Ilig), Mohamed Abdi Abdullahi (Andar) and Ilyas Abdinasir are enduring suffering in the custody of Somaliland intelligence, where they have been subjected to torture during interrogations in an attempt to extract false confessions. Additionally, their bank accounts and phone records are under investigation, as reported by security officers who spoke to local journalists anonymously, fearing for their safety and job security.

The headquarters of MM Somali TV remains forcibly closed, with a substantial amount of their equipment either destroyed or confiscated during the raid. Plainclothes security officers are reportedly monitoring anyone approaching the TV office. Meanwhile, journalists responsible for managing the TV's social media accounts are operating discreetly due to their fear of being tracked, identified and subsequently arrested.

In this alarming and ongoing assault on press freedom, Somaliland authorities are not only violating local and national laws that safeguard fundamental rights of free expression and media freedom, but they are also flagrantly disregarding African and international human rights laws by arbitrarily arresting journalists, unlawfully detaining them, confiscating and damaging the equipment of an independent news media organization, suppressing open media discussions and denying people their right to access information freely.

“It is reprehensible to detain journalists in an intelligence cell and hold them illegally for merely performing their journalistic duties. The rights of our colleagues at MM Somali TV are being blatantly violated with every passing minute of their arbitrary and continued detention. This situation calls for unequivocal rejection and a demand for their immediate and unconditional release,” stated Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

On 6 January 2024, journalists Mohamed Abdi Sheikh (Ilig), Mohamed Abdi Abdullahi (Andar) and Ilyas Abdinasir were physically assaulted, blindfolded and forcibly placed into an unmarked vehicle before being detained. This occurred because MM Somali TV had hosted a debate on X (formerly Twitter) Space that very night, discussing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Ethiopia and Somaliland on New Year's Day.

“The grave mistreatment of these journalists by security agents only underscores the clearly intended goal of suppressing journalists for being facilitators and conveyors of independent news and information, something that Somaliland authorities evidently oppose. However, this only strengthens the determination of journalists to report the truth, which cannot be concealed at any cost,” declared Osman.