Somali authorities detain journalist accused of spreading ‘false news’

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A fisherman carries his catch in front of buildings, destroyed during a war, in Hamarweyne district near a fishing port in Mogadishu, Somalia September 14, 2018 REUTERS/Feisal Omar - RC1AD46F8070

Somalilandsun-Authorities in the Somali state of Galmudug should immediately release broadcast journalist Mohamed Abdiwali Tohow without charge, the Committee to Protect Journalist said today. Intelligence personnel detained the journalist on September 22 over a report broadcast the previous day for the Mogadishu-based Radio Kulmiye, according to the station’s director, Burhan Dini Farah and Ismail Sheikh Khalifa, chairperson of the advocacy group, Human Rights Journalists.

On the morning of September 22, the journalist received a phone call from intelligence personnel, asking him to appear at a station in the state capital, Dhusamareeb, according to Burhan, who spoke with journalists who have visited Mohamed in the detention center, and a Galmudug-based journalist who is familiar with the case but who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized by his company to comment.

The intelligence personnel told Mohamed that his report alleging that the militant group Al-Shabaab was regrouping in parts of the state was “false news,” according to Burhan and the Galmudug-based journalist. As of late today, the journalist had not been charged, Ismail told CPJ.

“That Mohamed Abdiwali Tohow has not been charged with any crime, four days after he was arrested, demonstrates this is little more than an attempt to intimidate and punish the journalist for his reporting,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. “Authorities in Galmudug should immediately release him without charge, and allow journalists to work freely, especially when they report on critical issues.”

Mohamed contributes to several stations, including the London-based broadcaster Universal TV. The broadcaster’s East Africa director, Abdullahi Kulmiye Hirsi, told CPJ today that authorities in Galmudug said that they would produce the journalist in court on September 27. Burhan told CPJ that Galmudug’s minister of information, Mohamud Aden Osman, told him on September 25 that the journalist would be released once investigations were completed.

The minister told CPJ that he was aware of the journalist’s arrest and that it was not the first time the reporter had spread “wrong information,” The minister said he was in discussions and that he hoped Mohamed would be released soon, but did not specify further details