This segment covers freedom of expression and public protests in Somaliland.
Freedom of expression confronted with many backlashes in this year where political tensions resulted from election postponement created critical voices. Journalists in particular experienced detentions, beating and harassments. In 2015, Human Rights Centre documented arrests of nineteen (19) journalists . Many journalists were arrested in the port city of Berbera. Berbera is the main source of income for the government, and the journalists were arrested for stories related to financial matters for instance transfer of government owned petroleum terminals to private businesses. Journalists were arrested in Berbera in 8 different times. Mohamed Abdilahi Soo-fadhiiste was arrested twice, Ahmed Saed Mohamed was arrested twice, Abdirahman Mohamed Egeh was arrested three times and Mubarig Osman Saed was arrested once.
The following are the list of the journalists arrested in 2015.
1. Mohamed Abdilahi Soo-fadhiiste, editor-in-chief of Berberatoday, was arrested twice in Berbera.
a. He was arrested on 6th February and released on 11th February.
b. On 24th September he was arrested again and released on 26th September.
2. Ahmed Saed Mohamed was arrested twice in Berbera:
a. He was arrested on 5th October and was released on 7th October.
b. He was arrested on 1st April and was released on 6th April.
3. Abdirahman Mohamed Egeh was arrested three times in Berbera:
a. He was arrested on 8th March 2015, and was released on the same day.
b. He was arrested on 20th September and was released on 21st September.
c. He was arrested on 5th October and was released on 7th October.
4. Mubarig Osman Saed, Star TV, was arrested in Berbera on 8th March 2015, and was released on the same day.
5. Jama Hussein Jama of Space Channel was arrested in Boorama on 4th September and he was released on the same day.
6. Ahmed Mouse Sakaaro was arrested twice in Buroa:
a. He was arrested on 11th February 2015 and released on the same day; and
b. He was arrested on 5th April 2015 and released on the same day.
7. Barkhad Mohamoud Geedi was arrested in Erigavo two times:
a. He was arrested on 12th February and was released on the same day;
b. He was arrested on 29th November and was released on 30th November.
8. Saleebaan Abdi Ali, editor of Gobanimonews, was arrested in Hargeisa on 11th May and was released on the same day.
9. Abdirahman Arab Duale, Somalilandlive website, was arrested in Hargeisa on 11th May and was released on the same day.
10. Hamse Ali Bulbul, Star Tv, was arrested on 23rd July and was released on the same day.
11. Khadar Moalim Deeq, Bulsho TV was arrested on 23rd July and was released on the same day.
12. Mustafe Adam, Star TV was arrested on 23rd July, and was released on the same day.
13. Abdiqadir Adam Arab, then editor-in-chief of Somaliland Today, was arrested on 23rd July and was released on the same day.
14. Najib Dalmar, Bulsho TV was arrested on 23rd July and was released on the same day.
15. Abdirahmaan Adam Bidar, Togaherer website was arrested on 23rd July and was released on the same day.
16. Mohamed Amiin Jibriil, Saxafi newspaper, was arrested in Hargeisa on 18th April and was released in the same day.
17. Khadar Cabdirisaaq was arrested on 28th November in Buroa and was released on the same day:
18. Cabdirashiid Nuur Wacays was arrested on 30th November 2015 in Hargeisa and was release on bail on 3rd December 2015.
19. Siciid Khadar Cabdilaahi was arrested on 30th November 2015 in Hargeisa and was release on bail on 3rd December 2015.
Ahmed Mouse Sakaaro was beaten up by two unknown assailants in Buroa on 21st October in a broad light day. He sustained injuries and was hospitalized. The assailants have taken away his laptop and mobile phone. Before the attack Ahmed received numerous phone calls threatening him and demanding him to refrain writing stories about the mayor of Buroa. The assailants were not arrested.
Cabdirashiid Nuur Wacays, chairman of Hubsad newspaper and Siciid Khadar Cabdilaahi, editor-in-chief of Hubsad newspaper, were arrested on 30th November 2015 in Hargeisa. The authorities claim that the journalists were running unlicensed newspaper. Cabdirashid and Siciid also work for critical local television station called Bulsho Television. They were released 3rd December on bail. The journalists were arrested from the Office of the attorney General while they were filling to register the names of new leadership and ownership of Hubsad. The publication of Hubsad newspaper is suspended by the authorities.
Haatuf Media Group shut down by the government in April 2014 is still on closure. The cracking down of Haatuf sent negative massage to the rest of media houses whom many subsequently adopted self-censorship. Another media house, Hubaal, closed by the authorities in December 2013 was allowed to reopen on 23rd July 2015 after settlement was reached.
It is not only the government which suppresses the media. In 20th July 2015, Hubaal website was blocked by private internet provider, Somtel, making the website of the newspaper inaccessible to the users of Somtel internet. Somtel is a private telecommunication company.
Hubaal website was blocked after it reported Wikileaks revelations which exposed alleged email communications between hacking company and Somtel which sought to buy hacking technology from the HackingTeam, emails disclosed by Wikileaks claim. Human Rights Centre cannot confirm the allegations in the Wikileaks disclosure. Hubaal was the only newspaper that published the story.
Somtel management accused Hubaal of damaging its reputation by publishing “false and defamatory information” , Somtel officers told Human Rights Centre. Access to Hubaal website was later allowed.
Because of economic difficulties, media houses rely on advertisement as a source of income. Human Rights Centre research found that in many instances, companies advertising in the media agree with the media houses not to publish and report on issues that are incompatible with the interest of the company. Such agreements restrict freedom of media by encouraging self-censorship. For instance media houses who are in such agreement cannot publish news or story that may include any remarks that state any default or weakness in the services or products of the company.
Private radios continue to be banned in Somaliland which severely limits access to information in rural areas and among nomadic communities. The only local radio that operates in Somaliland is the government owned Radio Hargeisa. International radios of BBC Somali Service and VOA Somali Service are also listened to by many people.
Human rights activists and members of the political opposition have also faced harassment or arbitrary arrest by the authorities. Guleid Ahmed Jama, the chairperson of Human Rights Centre, was arrested on 18th April 2015 after he gave an interview raising concerns on death penalty and urged judicial and legal reforms. He was charged on three accounts: 1. instigation to disobey the laws, 2. subversive or anti-national propaganda, 3. publication or circulation of false and exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing public order. He was released on bail on 6th May. On 26th August, Hargeisa Regional Court issued decree closing the criminal case against Guleid.
Sultan Mohmed Muse (aka Cune) was arrested in Buroa, east of Somaliland, by Somaliland police on 6th July 2015. He was arrested after he opposed extension of presidential term in a media interview. He was brought to court on the second day of his arrest (7th July) and remanded in prison. He was not brought to court again within seven days legally required . He was released on 18th July. He claimed that he was beaten when he was in the custody of the police.
Sultan Mowlid Ali Sabayste, traditional elder, was arrested on 17th September. The Sultan was arrested after he opposed and criticized the government’s transfer of Berbera Petroleum Terminals to private business. He was released on 5th October.
Unsanctioned public demonstrations are prohibited in Somaliland. The constitution provides unconditional freedom of public demonstration. However, the government requires permission to be sought from the Ministry of Interior or the district or regional administrations as pre-requirement to hold demonstration. Such prerequisite is used by the authorities as a mechanism to refuse demonstrations. The police prevent and disperse unsanctioned demonstrations by using excessive force.
A number of protests organized by the opposition parties have been halted by the government which refused to provide permission on the basis of “national security”. In these protests a total number of thirty two (32) of Waddani opposition party members were arrested in different occasions.
On 11th May opposition political party, Waddani, organized public protests against the government. Security forces were deployed the offices of the party, and main roads were closed to prevent the protest. Furthermore twenty seven (27) members of Waddani including high ranking leaders (members of the executive committee) were arrested. Most of them were released later at that day and the following days. Twenty two of them were arrested in Hargeisa, four in Berbera and one in Sool.
On 23 July 2015, five (5) members of Waddani party including deputy secretary on information, Abdirashid Mohamed Adam, were arrested. They were released after abut five hours in detention at the compound of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Hargeisa.
The heavy handed response and intolerance towards demonstrations and critical voices are contrary to article 32 of Somaliland constitution which gives all citizens to freedom of expression and freedom to organize or participate in any peaceful assembly.
For further information contact:
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Chairperson of Human Rights Centre
Hana Abdisalaan Mohamed
Deputy Chairperson of Human Rights Centre