Senegal: CPJ calls for immediate release of detained Somali journalist

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – The media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in Somalia to ''immediately release'' journalist Abdirisak Omar Ahmed or disclose any charges against him.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday, CPJ said Somalia's National Intelligence and Security Agency arrested Abdirisak, a freelancer who wrote for the privately owned, Somali-language news website Xogmaal on December 17, near the Jubba Hotel in the Shanghani district of Mogadishu.

"Somali authorities have held Abdirisak Omar Ahmed incommunicado for 20 days without presenting a shred of evidence he broke the law. That 20 days is too long," remarked CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, Sue Valentine. "If Abdirisak is accused of committing a crime, authorities should disclose those charges immediately. Otherwise, they should release him now."

According to the statement, Abdirisak was detained alongside with journalist Abdukar Mohamed Ali of Star FM while the pair was walking to a coffee shop.

Abdukar was released without being charged the following day,  but Abdirisak remained in detention and has not been brought before the court.

The journalist is being held at the intelligence agency's headquarters near the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

CPJ quoted National Union of Somali Journalists Secretary General, Mohamed Ibrahim saying that he had raised Abdirisak's case with the authorities, but has been unable to learn anything about it.

The journalist has been denied access to his lawyer and his family, including his wife, Maryan Arale.

In an interview on Universal Television on December 27, Maryan said she was concerned about Abdirisak's health because he had been suffering a serious case of malaria around the time of his arrest.  

"They have not brought any charges against him. When we ask what he has done, they say they are investigating. He is not allowed to have a lawyer and we do not know who to share our grievances with. Abdirisak was the sole breadwinner of the family, and he was also studying at university and was due to sit exams in January," the wife lamented.

Meanwhile, CPJ pointed out that reasons for Abdirisak's detention remained unclear and that Somalia's Minister for National Security, Abdirizak Omar Mohamed and Information Minister, Mohamed Abdi Hayir Maareeye were yet to respond to CPJ's request for information as to why the journalist has been detained.

The media freedom watchdog said it had recorded several incidents in 2015 in which agents from the National Intelligence and Security Agency engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists.

''The continued detention of Abdirisak, apparently without charge, comes despite President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's declared support for freedom of the media and his professed admiration for the role that journalists play in providing information to society in Somalia,'' the statement noted.

CPJ also recalled that on  World Press Freedom day in May 2014, President Mohamud recognized journalists who, in his words, "work tirelessly to inform the population, often at great risk to themselves."

-0- PANA MLJ/AR 7Jan2016

07 january 2016 13:04:41

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