The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns in the most unequivocal terms, the brutality displayed by the police in Mogadishu, during the arrest of journalists Bashir Mohamud Weheliye, a producer for Goobjoog News, and assault on Guled Abdi Salad of Universal TV on Sunday, 5 September 2021.
The two journalists were manhandled as the duo covered a public protest in Mogadishu on Sunday afternoon. Salad‘s equipment including a camera was confiscated while Weheliye was released after being held briefly at Hodan district police station.
Videos recorded by members of the public during the arrest show heavily armed police officers dragging journalist Bashir Mohamud Weheliye on the ground and throwing him into a police van.
“This illegal arrest and the brutal treatment meted out by the police against the journalists during the course of normal duties, needs to be condemned by all in the strongest terms. This is not only an affront to press freedom but also to the right of citizens to know what is going on in their community” said NUSOJ Secretary General, Omar Faruk Osman.
“These attacks once again highlight the increasingly risky environment that journalists in Mogadishu and Somalia in general are working in. Journalists have a right to seek, gather, and report news about current events, including public protests as such information helps the public to make informed decisions. It is disheartening that the police who have a duty to ensure that journalists work in a safe and secure environment, have instead joined the ranks of their abusers,” Osman added.
NUSOJ calls on the leadership of the Somali Police Force to apprehend and prosecute the officers involved in today’s attack on journalists, set up a technical committee to come up with an action plan to harmonise the relations between the media and the police, compensate those who have been assaulted, immediately return confiscated tools of trade, commit to prevent similar abuses against the media, and regularly sensitize police officers on human rights law and the media freedom, among others. The top leadership of the police should resign from their positions if they cannot arrest and punish the errant soldiers.
The union believes that holding the perpetrators accountable is essential for dissuading repeated occurrences of violent abuses of power by the police. Moreover, pursuing accountability will signal to the Somali people that their law enforcement authorities did not condone these attacks and are honouring the national commitments to equal human rights for all.
“We call on the security forces including the police to comply with their obligations under national and international law, prosecute all those responsible for the human rights abuses in criminal courts, and to protect journalists on duty, especially during tense situations to ensure they are able to do their work freely” stressed Osman.