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Reporter: Mutiu Olawuyi

 

HARGEISA, February 22, 2018/ — Somaliland authorities have detained Mohamed Aabi Digaale, the Hargeisa bureau chief for the London-based broadcaster Universal TV. Police arrested Mohamed on February 17 and have been holding him without charge, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairperson of the advocacy organization Human Rights Center, and Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye, the East Africa director of Universal TV, told our reporter.

According to report gathered, authorities on February 19 brought Mohamed to court, where he was remanded to the Counter Terrorism Unit for seven more days while investigations continued. Mohamed was relocated today to Hargeisa’s central police station, Guleid said.

Guleid and Abdullahi separately told our reporter that Mohamed’s arrest was likely related to a February 2 story another Universal TV journalist published about conflict in Somaliland’s Sanaag region. Guleid said that some of the people interviewed for the report complained about police conduct in quelling regional violence.

“The arbitrary arrest and detention of Mohamed Aabi Digale, simply because authorities dislike his TV station’s journalism, is outrageous and a violation of justice” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal in New York. “Somaliland should immediately free the journalist without charge and allow him, as well as his Universal TV colleagues, to work without fear of retaliation.”

Somaliland’s deputy police commissioner, Abdirahman Liban Fohle, on February 17 told journalists that Mohamed was arrested because the station had aired a report that was damaging to police, according to a video posted online that was translated and summarized by CPJ Somaliland.

Our correspondent was unable to determine if Abdirahman was referring to the February 2 story.

Abdullahi and Yahye Mohamed, executive director of the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA), told reporters that Mohamed had previously written a letter to the Information Ministry apologizing for the February 2 story.

According to Muslim Parrot Correspondent in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s information minister, Abdurrahman Abdullahi Farah, failed to make any comment about the detainment the journalist as he referred journalists to the ministry’s spokesperson, Yonis Ali, for comment. Yonis today told journalists that police informed the Information Ministry that Mohamed’s arrest was not related to his journalism, but to security matters.

Yonis declined to elaborate on the nature of the security issues, but said that the controversy associated with the February 2 broadcast had been resolved after the ministry received the apology letter, contradicting Abdirahman Libaan Fohle’s February 17 statement.

All attempts to reach the commissioner on his mobile phone were unsuccessful, as he also failed to respond to a text message from Muslim Parrot and other journalists today.

Mohamed’s arrest is the latest case in a deteriorating and hostile environment for the press in this semi-autonomous region of Somalia. Muslim Parrot has documented at least five cases of journalists who were detained in connection with their work in Somaliland since September 2017. During the elections in November 2017, authorities also shut down social media sites.

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