Somali security forces arrest five journalists in two days

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Nairobi, January 5, 2015Somali security forces arrested five journalists in two separate cases over the weekend in the capital, Mogadishu, according to news reports. Three of them are still being held.

On Saturday, security forces arrested three journalists from the independent radio station Radio Risaala and shut down the station, according to local journalists and news reports. The journalists-Director Mohamed Abdiwahab Abdullahi, Editor Mohamed Kafi Sheik Abukar, and reporter Mohamed Abdi Ali-were arrested in connection with a report Friday on a suspected Ebola patient living in the Lower Shabelle region of the country, the sources said. The Ministry of Health denied in a press briefing on Saturday that the individual had contracted Ebola. The three journalists have not been charged, according to local journalists.

The station is still shuttered. Government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman told CPJ the information ministry was negotiating with the security department for the journalists’ release.

“Journalists should never be jailed for their work, which involves raising sensitive issues of public interest,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “We call on authorities to immediately release Mohamed Abdiwahab, Mohamed Kafi, and Mohamed Abdi Ali.”

On Sunday, security forces arrested two journalists from the private broadcaster Radio Goobjoog who were among the first reporters to arrive at the scene of a deadly car bomb explosion in the Waberi district of Mogadishu, local journalists told CPJ. The insurgent Al-Shabaab group later claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least five people, according to news reports.

Mohamed Salad Osman, head of programs at Radio Goobjoog, and reporter Ibrahim Haji Yusuf were held overnight at the National Intelligence and Security Agency headquarters in the capital without explanation, local journalists said. The two were released on Monday without charge.

Government spokesman Abdirahman told CPJ the reporters were arrested and questioned along with a group of people who were also at the scene of the attack. Abdirahman denied that they were held in connection to their work.

Separately, the trial of four Shabelle Media Network journalists resumed today, news reports said. Two of the journalists-Shabelle FM producer Mohamed Bashir and Mohamud Mohamed, director of sister station Sky FM-have been incarcerated for more than four months, while Shabelle media owner Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamoud and Radio Shabelle presenter Ahmed Abdi Hassan were released on bail in October.

The journalists were arrested on accusations of incitement. Government spokesman Abdirahman told CPJ in August that the arrests were made after the Shabelle Media Network incited the public to violence and urged clans to fight security forces. Shabelle’s broadcasts came at a time when authorities were attempting to disarm a militia in the capital, according to wire reports.

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