Somalia: Somali Journalists Chief Out On Bail After Appearance Before Mogadishu Court

Mogadishu — Somali veteran journalist Abdalle Ahmed Mumin is out on bail after being arrested last week on security-related charges.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the secretary-general of the Somali Journalists Syndicate, or SJS, appeared in a Mogadishu court Sunday, six days after he was arrested at the airport and stopped from traveling to Kenya to visit relatives.

Mumin was accused of disobeying the law, according to the charges seen by VOA. The country’s attorney general office charged Abdalle on behalf of the information ministry, which recently issued a directive barring Somali journalists from reporting news related to Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

Mohamed Ibrahim, the Somali Journalists Syndicate president, spoke with VOA by phone. He described the charges as trumped up.

He says Abdalle appeared at the court today after being behind bars for six days. Ibrahim says the attorney general’s office announced three charges and that the government’s main goal is to silence the independent media. He urged the attorney general’s office to drop the charges.

He added that the attorney general asked for 45 days to investigate the case and provide evidence.

Laetitia Bader is Horn of Africa director of Human Rights Watch. She tells VOA Mumin is being charged under what she describes as a very outdated criminal code which should have been reviewed years ago. She says it is repeatedly being used to restrict legitimate space for the media.

“[The] Somali government should have released Abdalle Ahmed Mumin from the beginning. It is very clear that he has been held and investigated on apparently politically motivated allegations directly linked to the work he does to promote media freedoms in Somalia,” she said.

A number of international organizations condemned Mumin’s arrest.

Hussein Mohamed, a freelance journalist based in Mogadishu for The New York Times, told VOA the new directive put journalists at a higher risk than they have never faced before. Mohamed said the government issued the order without consulting media organizations in the country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the arrest.

The CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo said in a recent statement that Mumin’s arrest was “an unacceptable aggression and is undoubtedly sending a ripple of fear through the Somali media community.” Rights group Amnesty International issued similar comments.

Somalia is one of the deadliest countries for journalists in the world, with more than 50 killed since 2010, according to Reporters Without Borders.