Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), condemn the arrest and unwarranted detention of an independent journalist by police in central Somalia’s Galmudug region, and demand his immediate and unconditional release.
Mohamed Abdiweli Tohow, a freelance journalist, was arrested at around 9 p.m. on 29 September as he was on his way to verify reports of attacks by Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, an armed group opposed to the authorities in Galmudug.
According to the information obtained by NUSOJ, Tohow’s arrest was ordered by Police Commander Mohamed Sanjeh, who was annoyed with his coverage of the recent surge in this group’s attacks.
The police took him to a courthouse today but no judges were present because Friday is not a working day in Somalia. At the time of writing, Tohow continued to be detained at Samareb police station without a court order.
“We deplore Mohamed Abdiweli Tohow’s illegal arrest and continued detention and demand his unconditional release,” NUSOJ secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman said. “Instead of using force to imprison an innocent journalist, the Galmudug authorities should focus on addressing the security situation in their region. We again remind them that journalism is not a crime.
“This action is intended to stifle public debate on pertinent issues by silencing critical journalists. We call on the judiciary not to allow itself to be used by the Galmudug police as a tool to legitimise Tohow’s illegal and continued imprisonment.”
Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk, added: “There are absolutely no grounds for holding this journalist. It is high time the authorities stopped using arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of journalists in order to silence them. RSF and NUSOJ remain committed to their call for the immediate implementation of a moratorium on arrests of journalists in Somalia.”
This is not the first time that Tohow has been targeted for his journalistic work. Since the start of the year, he has been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the security forces, who have twice either summoned for questioning or briefly arrested him after he published articles about the political and security situation in Galmudug.
Somalia is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.