Somaliland arrests three journalists in crackdown on critics

Authorities in the breakaway republic of Somaliland have arrested three journalists since last week including one who allegedly voiced support for union with Somalia and met with the country’s new president.

Somaliland authorities want international recognition as an independent nation and they oppose any public sentiment favoring reunification with Somalia. They declined to participate in the recent Somalia elections.

Abdimalik Muse Coldoon was arrested by immigration officers on February 15th at Egal International Airport in Hargeisa after his arrival from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. The National, an outlet that supports the Somaliland government, called Coldoon a “controversial journalist” and ran several articles justifying his arrest.

“While in Mogadishu, Coldoon campaigned against Somaliland’s sovereignty, and met with Somalia’s new President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. Coldoon also promised to spread his ideology upon his returning to Somaliland,” reported The National.

Coldoon has not been charged with any crime. He remains in detention.

Coldoon’s supporters on social media criticized the arrest. “I support Coldoon. He is fighting for the unity of Somalia,” wrote Nasrudiin Abdirahman on Facebook. “He is arguing that we either remain within our nation of Somalia or that we will come under Ethiopian colony.”

Khadar Abid said that Coldoon had gone to Mogadishu “to celebrate and support the new president,” adding, “I don’t think he would have been arrested or questioned if he’s been to the United States of America to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory, there isn’t any difference to me.”

On the other hand, the Somaliland Journalists Association condemned Coldoon saying that he deserves punishment. “We are calling on the government to protect the nation’s sovereignty and to prosecute Coldoon to the fullest extent of the law so that other journalists think twice before committing unlawful acts,” said Chairman Mohamed Abdi Jama.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that Somaliland authorities arrested a second journalist on February 19th, Ahmed Abubakar, director general of the broadcaster Universal TV. He was arrested at the airport in Hargeisa while in transit from Mogadishu to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, but was released the following day. It was unclear why he was detained, CPJ said.

Somaliland security forces arrested a third journalist on February 20th, Mohamed Baashe Hassan, a journalist for the independent broadcaster Star TV. According to the Somaliland Human Rights Centre, Mohamed had recently publicly criticized the manner in which the Hargeisa government handled a deal for a military base to be granted to the United Arab Emirates to be established at Berbera.

“The police accused Mohamed of inciting the public and disturbing the public order. We condemn in the strongest terms the arrest of Mohamed Baashe Hassan. He is a respected journalist and author who is known of his role in fighting the human rights violation by the Siad Barre regime in 1980s,” said Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairman of the rights group.