On the commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the Human Rights Day, the Human Rights Center reports increasing restrictions of freedom of expression and media in Somaliland in this year.
In this year, 2019, the Human Rights Center has recorded 88 people arrested for cases related to freedom of opinion. This includes 29 people who are journalists and 59 who are not journalists.
Currently the acting editor of Horn Cable TV, Abdikadir Suleiman Oman is in prison facing criminal charges. He is facing the following charges of 1. Anti-national propaganda; 2. Publication of false news, 3. Anti-national propaganda 3. Non-observance of orders of authorities. The charges are related to 1. News about complaint letter made by an airliner regarding landing incident in which the aircraft was unable to land due to contradicting information 2. An interview is given by a rebel leader to the television.
In this year four media houses were shut down.
· On February 10th, the regional court of Hargeisa suspended the privately owned foore newspaper for 1 year following a conviction for publishing “false news” and anti-national propaganda. The charges relate to Foore’s coverage of the Somaliland government, including October 11, 2018 story on the construction of a new presidential palace. The article in question which contrasts the luxury of the new presidential palace and the poverty of the civil society is said by the authorities that it was meant to incite the public against the government.
· On the 15th of June, two TV stations Horyaal 24 TV and Eryal TV were closed down by the police after a ministerial decree in the form of a letter presented by the police officers came from the Ministry of information, shutting down the stations indefinitely. After negotiations, they were later reinstated.
· A court ordered the blocking of Hadhwanag news website after publishing articles accusing the governor of the Central Bank of corruption. The court order was made without hearing the parties. Three Hadhwanaag news journalists were arrested and later released on bail. Now they fled outside of the country claiming fear of persecution.
The crackdown of opposition politicians and banning protests
On the evening of the 17th of November, 2 politicians from the opposition party Waddani, Barkhad Jama Batuun the spokesperson of the party who was arrested for calling out to the public to gather on the 18th for a demonstration, and Khadar Hussien Abdi the secretary general of the same party was arrested after prior happenings while checking up on Barkhad. They remained in detention for 9 days, after being brought in front of the court on the 26th. They were released as a result of mediation negotiated by businesspersons.
Abdi Ibrahim Abdulle, a civilian was also arrested on the same day for making the phrase “ila maeerayso” viral, in a context where he was criticizing the government. He was released 9 days later as well.
Mohamed Sidiiq Dhame who is the leader of the of youth wing for the opposition party Waddani was arrested on May 1st 2019 after clearly stating his opposition to the state of emergency imposed by the president on districts in Sanaag region. He was detained for 2 months and a half and was later released on bail.
Mahamed Ahmed Dhakool, a member of the Somaliland parliament was arrested on the 9th of May 2019 for stating his opinion on the 18th of May, even though it goes against his constitutional rights as a member of the parliament not be arrested or detained. He was not remanded by the court which refused to do say citing the article of the constitution giving members of parliament immunity. The Parliament also rejected to strip of immunity. The government held him in the Counter-Terrorism Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department in a month. He was late released after clan elders convinced the president to let him go.
Unsanctioned protests are not allowed in Somaliland. On the 16th of November, the chairman of the political party Waddani called out his supporters to gather for a rally at the headquarters of the party, expressing their discontent with the government about a dispute over the composition of the National Electoral Commission. On the morning of the 18th, when the supporters gathered around the headquarters, they found several trucks of police dispatched around the office, while others took over the office around 6 in the morning, kicking the office staff out.
On 19th November 2019, the governor of Hargeisa ordered hotel managers that all meetings and ceremonies not authorized by the government shall not be convened at hotels. The order explicitly says all meetings and ceremonies are prohibited unless they are authorities. In a press conference, the two opposition parties stated that they were refused to hold a meeting in a hotel as a result of the governor’s order which they said was intended to disrupt their work.
Human Rights Centre expresses concern over the actions of the government. We call on the authorities to respect the constitution, stop the criminalization of media, and cracking down of opposition and critical voices. We call on the government to reinstate suspended media houses and release detained journalist Abdikadir Suleiman Osman.
At the end of the month, the Human Rights Centre will issue a detailed annual report on the situation of human rights in Somaliland.
Yasmin Omar Haji Mohamoud
The Chairperson Human Rights Centre