HARGEISA — Mohamed Abdi Omar and Khadar Farah Hussein, managing editor and reporter/cameraman, respectively, with the newspaper Yool newspaper, became the latest number of journalists held in Somaliland prisons without charges.

Mr. Omar and Mr. Hussein were arrested by police on Tuesday (15 May) while covering a deadly land dispute that erupted between government forces and armed civilians in eastern parts of the capital. The clashes, which left seven people dead including three officers and a pregnant mother spiraled out of control. More than ten were injured and twenty-eight were taken into custody in which seventeen of them face the death penalty.

The Military court also gave five teenagers life sentences, three were acquitted and three others saw their trial delayed till they recover from injuries they sustained during the conflict.

The two reporters got arrested after taking photos of the Interior Minister Mohamed Nuur Arale and Minister of presidency Hersi Ali Haji during their visit to the disputed former military facility.

They are part of number of journalists held in Somaliland prisons without charges including Abdifatah Mohamed Aided (Saxafi newspaper) and Mohamed Abdillahi (Somali Channel tv).

The land dispute centers an area in Qudhac Dheer district that local residents claim as part of their gardens (Garden of Hassan Galool) and argue the old government of Siad Barre confiscated from them without financial returns. In 1980s, at the height of the civil war in the former Somali republic, Siad Barre forces used the land as a military repair facility (Warshada Kabista). The current government refuses to deal with the residents and is said to have sold the land to a third party.

On Friday local journalist umbrellas in Hargeisa have called on the government to release the reporters without any delay and condemned its use of brutal force against both civilians and the media.


May 18, 2012