Somaliland should free founder of MM Somali TV; Somalia parliament must give access to all media

Monday February 05, 2024 - 12:28:57 in Articles by Xaaji Faysal
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    Somaliland should free founder of MM Somali TV; Somalia parliament must give access to all media

    Since 6 January, 2024, Mohamed Abdi Ilig has beenheld

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Since 6 January, 2024, Mohamed Abdi Ilig has beenheld

The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is deeply troubled by the continued incarceration of Mohamed Abdi Ilig, the founder and journalist of MM Somali TV in Hargeisa, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. Furthermore, SJS urges a reevaluation of Lower House of the Somali Parliament’s approach to independent media access within the House of People.

Since 6 January, 2024, Mohamed Abdi Ilig has beenheld in detentionafter moderating a X (formerly Twitter) discussion regarding the Somaliland-Ethiopia MOU, which was hosted by MM Somali TV on the same day. Initially detained alongside two colleagues, reporter Mohamed Abdi Abdullahi (known as Andar) and cameraman Ilyaas Abdinasir, the latter two werereleasedon January 9 without charges.

On 14 January, Maroodi Jeex Attorney General Abdirahman Iid Mohamed has directed the national intelligence to transfer Ilig to the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) citing the intelligence agency’s "lack of legal jurisdiction to investigate a crime and bring it before a court,” according to MM Somali TV colleagues and documents seen by SJS. Subsequent to this directive, Ilig, the founder, and journalist of MM Somali TV, was moved to the police cells in Hargeisa, where he is presently detained. Colleagues have noted a deterioration in his health since this transfer.

On Tuesday, 30 January, Iligappearedbefore the Maroodi Jeex Regional Court in Hargeisa, where his detention was prolonged for an additional seven days and no lawyers representing Ilig were present at the time, as reported by his colleagues to SJS.

Even though neither the police nor the attorney general’s office has pressed any charges, SJS has obtained a charge sheet dated 12 January, 2024, issued by the Somaliland National Intelligence Agency (NIA). This document cites Article 200 (Political or Military Espionage) and Article 220 (Offending the Honour or Prestige of the Head of the State) of the penal code as the charges against Ilig. MM Somali TV Colleagues speaking to SJS after Tuesday’s court appearance, have confirmed that these two charges are the only ones known at present. Police and the attorney general’s office did not respond to our queries seeking comment.

In Mogadishu, SJS expresses concern over the threats and obstruction faced by journalists and media stations reporting on parliamentary activities within the Lower House (People’s House) of Somalia’s Federal Parliament.

On 22 January, NISA and police officersdenied accessSomali Cable TV journalists who were trying to cover the parliament’s Lower House proceedings of the day. The journalists told SJS that the reason was linked to a video clip aired on Saturday, showing a Member of Parliament spraying water on parliament officials during the opening of the Saturday 20 January session. These limitations have impacted over 10 media stations and their journalists. Some of them were readmitted only after issuing apologies to the NISA officers stationed in the parliament and pledging not to cover anything deemed critical to the government.

According to several journalists interviewed by SJS, NISA agents extended their prohibitions to include interviews with lawmakers who are known to be critical or in opposition to the government. These restrictions commenced on 2 January, coinciding with the day President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s addressed the joint parliament session.

Furthermore, on 2 January, the Lower House’s Office of Communications and Media Relations issued a notice to independent media via WhatsApp, instructing that all media station must present letters of accreditation from the Ministry of Information by 10 January as a prerequisite for covering parliamentary proceedings.

Camera and journalists are seen on the background during parliamentary session on 2 January 2024.

Journalists and their camera equipment are seen on the background during parliamentary session at the Lower House in Mogadishu on 2 January 2024. | Photo/ Official.

Upon contacting the Lower House’s Office of Communications and Media Relations, a senior director told SJS that their intention was not to limit independent media, asserting that they are actively addressing these measures. However, this senior director refrained from commenting on their awareness of the NISA blockade against independent media. SJS remains committed to advocating for media access to the parliament, irrespective of their critical stance, and will persist in these efforts.

"The ongoing detention of our colleague, founder and journalist of MM Somali TV, Mohamed Abdi Ilig, constitutes a clear infringement of his rights and a blatant violation of press freedom. We express our deep concern about the extension of his detention by another seven days despite him committing no wrongdoing,” said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary-General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS). "We urge the Somaliland authorities to uphold their own constitution and refrain from targeting journalists like Ilig who engage in discussions on matters of public interest. It is crucial to recognize that journalism is not a crime.”

"We urge the Somali Federal Parliament’s Lower House to reassess its approach to independent media houses covering parliamentary activities. The denial of journalists’ access to the House not only hampers press freedom, but also adversely impacts citizens’ access to crucial information about parliamentary proceedings. A robust scrutiny of elected representatives and the working of the parliament is a fundamental aspect of any democracy, with journalists playing a pivotal role. Hence, they must be granted maximum access to fulfill their vital function,” added Mumin.


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