Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Abdiimalik Yusuf Mohamud, the owner of Shabelle Media Network, and Ahmed Abdi Hassan, the editor-in-chief of one of his network’s radio stations, Radio Shabelle, were released on bail today.
But RWB is still very concerned about the fate of Radio Shabelle editor Mohamed Bashir Hashi and Mohamud Mohamed Dahir, the manager of Sky FM, another Shabelle Media Network radio station, who are still detained and have yet to be brought before a judge.
The charges against Mohamed and Hassan have been reduced to incitement to commit a crime and incitement to disobey the law.
But the other two are still also charged with public incitement, publication or dissemination of false, exaggerated or misleading information likely to disturb public order, offence against the honour and prestige of the head of state, and attacking the integrity, independence or unity of the Somali state. This last charge carries the death penalty.
Reporters Without Borders urges the judicial authorities to guarantee due process for all four journalists in accordance with the international standards applicable in Somalia, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
19.08.2014 - Three journalists tortured while in detention
After 19 initial arrests, three journalists still held and reportedly tortured
Reporters Without Borders condemns the closures of Mogadishu-based Radio Shabelle and Sky FM and arrests of 19 journalists and employees on 15 August, and the continuing detention and reported torture of the directors of the two radio stations and their owner.
The two stations, both owned by Shabelle Media Network, were closed during raids on the morning of 15 August by members of the National Security Agency (NSA), who made the 19 arrests.
Most of those arrested were released after two days, but the NSA is still holding Shabelle Media Network owner Abdiimalik Yusuf Mohamud, Radio Shabelle editor in chief Ahmed Abdi Hassan and Sky FM director Mohamud Mohamed Dahir, also known by the pseudonym of Mohamed Arab.
They are being held at NSA headquarters in Mogadishu, which is often used in anti-terrorism operations.
Several witnesses, including security officers, say the three men have been badly tortured in an attempt to extract confessions that they were deliberately trying to harm the Somali government.
“The reaction of the Somali authorities is out of all proportion,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk. “Torturing journalists is disgraceful and totally unacceptable. The authorities have legal means at their disposal if they think comments by the media pose a danger to national security.
“We are in the presence of arbitrary mass arrests, confirmed reports of torture and the illegal closure of two radio stations. We call on the Somali authorities to release these three journalists at once and to guarantee respect of their fundamental rights before the country’s courts.”
Sources contacted by Reporters Without Borders said the raids on the two media may have been triggered by a Radio Shabelle broadcast on 14 August criticizing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s interview for US TV station PBS during the Africa-USA summit, or by Sky FM’s comments on 15 August about the previous night’s fighting between government forces and warlords in Mogadishu.
Several sources said comments on Sky FM went beyond the limits of reporting and constituted a call for a violent uprising.
With eight journalists killed since the start of 2013 and constant harassment of the media, Somalia is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
For more information about Radio Shabelle
Photo: Somali soldier patrolling, Mohamed Abdiwahab/ AFP