13.10.2022: Mogadishu, Somalia
The Somali Government has began a clamped on independent Somali media across the country as the Deputy Ministry of Information, Abdirahman Al-Adala announces any media outlet it deemed to be reporting “Al-Shabab propaganda” would be shut down and detained.
The problem with this new government policy is that there is no legal or even universally accepted definition of “propaganda”. This means that the government could utilise this new policy to detain any journalist it deems is hindering its public image in the fight against Al-Shabab in central Somalia.
The secretary general of SJS Somalia, Abdalla Mumin became the first high profile journalist detained by the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) under unknown circumstances.
On the 11th of October, SJS Somalia posted on its Twitter page that its Secretary General, Abdalla Mumin was arrested under unknown charges following a raid conducted by NISA at SJS Somalia’s headquarters in Mogadishu. SJS further reported that the raid was carried by the commander of NISA’s Hawl-Wadaag district of Mogadishu, “Shakiib”.
Security agents had been caught on camera trying to gain entry to the offices of the syndicate, known as the SJS. Then on Tuesday, authorities detained the group’s secretary-general, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, at the city’s international airport.
Mohamed Ibrahim, syndicate president, said, “On behalf of Somali Journalists Syndicate and entire Somali media fraternity, I condemn the arrest in the strongest terms possible and call for the Somali government to release him immediately. Also, this attack represents an attack to all Somali media.”
The raid came shortly after the SJS and three other media organizations jointly protested a government directive against publishing content from al-Shabab.
“We are concerned that the new directive might be used to silence the legitimate critics of the government and its security forces including journalists, human rights defenders, independent researchers, analysts and others,” said Mumin only a few days before his arrest.
Ministry of Information statement
The Somali Ministry of Information release a press release following both local and international pressure from rights groups and activists alike.
The Ministry claimed that Abdalla Mumin was being held by the Somali Police Force for “security charges” rather than for his journalistic work. In an attempt to distance itself from the unjust arrest, the Ministry of Information claimed it contacted the National Prosecution Office for the details.
The statement released by the Information Ministry contradicts statements and footage released by SJS Somalia which clearly show NISA agents raiding the office.
Reaction to the arrest
On Wednesday, Somali journalists protested the detention and called for the immediate release of Abdalla Mumin.
Amnesty International said it was concerned by the “arbitrary arrest and detention” of Abdalla. “Authorities in Somalia must immediately & unconditionally release him & must also respect, protect and promote freedom of expression,” It added.
It was similarly condemned by other international rights groups including Reporters without Borders.
It also received condemnation from foreign embassies in Somalia.
“The United Kingdom is deeply concerned by the arrest & detention of Abdalla Mumin, Secretary General of SJS Somalia. Freedom of expression underpins all human rights. We urge #Somali Gov’t to follow due process & for the case to be heard fairly as they have committed to” said the British Embassy in Mogadishu.
Latest on the detention
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), where Abdalla has been serving as secretary-general, said he was transferred on Tuesday to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), days after being held incommunicado.
Reports are emerging that Abdalla Mumin appeared before judge during a hearing at Banaadir Regional Court this afternoon. His attorneys stated he was accused of “violating” a Ministry of Information regulation & disseminating a “CCTV footage”, which refers to the footage released by SJS Somalia showing NISA agents raiding their head office in Mogadishu.
The media clampdown came months after the incumbent Somali president, who accused his predecessor of using unlawful force to silence journalists, promised to promote press freedom during his election campaign.