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Jubbaland briefly detain TV journalist over interview of victim’s family in Kismayo

Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemns the arbitrary detention of privately-owned SBC TV reporter Mohamed Sahal Omar (Ga’ma Dhere) in Kismayo on Friday morning, May 24, 2019.

Jubbaland security forces arrested journalist Mohamed Omar Sahal at Kismayo General Hospital on Friday morning around 1030am local time, where he interviewed family members of an 8-years-old girl, whose mutilated body was found dumped outside the city and was brought to the hospital.

“They took me to the police station and confiscated my camera and laptop. They ordered me to handover the password of my laptop which I gave them. They checked the video interviews I did earlier,” Sahal told Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) shortly after he was released Friday afternoon.

 According to the journalist, two Jubbaland officers namely: Warsame Ahmed, the Deputy Police Commissioner of Jubbaland and Abdi Madobe, the Kismayo Police Commissioner came to him and informed that he will be put in the detention cell under the order of Jubbaland Police Commissioner Ahmed Nasir Guled.

The journalist was released around 01.45pm local time after spending more than 3 hours in the jail, where government ministers later intervened.

“When someone tells you what to say and what not to say, that is the darkest moment of life,” he told SJS.  ”We are in extreme situation of censorship and intimidation. This time it is coming from Jubbaland government.”

SJS contacted Kismayo Police Chief Abdi Madobe and Jubbaland’s Police Commissioner, Ahmed Nasir Guled who both declined to respond to our queries with regard to the journalist’s arrest.

Meanwhile, General Director of SBC Radio and TV, Mohamed Dek Abdalla has told SJS that his media outlet sought explanation of the arrest of their journalist but was not provided any answers.

*SJS condemns the arbitrary detention of our colleague, meant to obstruct his constitutionally granted freedoms.”SJS said.

Intimidations, arbitrarily arrests and threats against journalists by Jubbaland state security forces were recently on the raise as the Jubbaland parliamentary and presidential elections are expected to hold in August this year.  SJS research shows five local journalists have fled Kismayo, the seat of Jubbaland state of Somalia since January 2019 while others are planning to either quit reporting or leave the town at least during this election season due to their safety.

Mas’ud Abdullahi Adan, a Universal TV correspondent in Kismayo has told SJS that he has resorted to self censorship including to not report about Jubbaland elections after he was threatened with death by a soldier of Jubbaland’s Darawish military forces on April 23, 2019.

According to this journalist, the threats came after he posted an article about the upcoming elections on his Facebook account.

“In Kismayo there are many phony elders who form themselves as elders only during election period so I questioned about the authenticity of the elders who will be selecting the next Jubbaland parliament. After I posted the article, the soldier called me and threatened that he will kill me by shooting with seven bullets,” journalist Masu’d said.

“He seemed to be angry about my questioning about the validity of the clan elders. He said ‘how dare to criticize the elders’ while in Kismayo,”Mas’ud added.

On the next day, the journalist reported the threats he has received to the local police station and the Criminal Investigations Department. He was then told that investigations will be conducted but no response was provided until today.

He says he has now stopped complaining about any more for fear of his life.

“I am scared for my life that the soldier who threatened to kill me is at large and armed. The worst is that he was never questioned.  Nobody will protect me if he comes now and kills me,” the journalist told SJS.

In July 2013, Mas’ud was shot and seriously injured by a Jubbaland police officer over critical report which was aired on local radio in Mogadishu.  After several months in hospital, he was airlifted and treated in Nairobi.  That attack has never been investigated, an indication of heightened Impunity against journalists and media workers in Somalia.