The Secretary-General of Somali Journalists Syndicate, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, was illegally detained by police in Jowhar on Thursday for the second straight day, according to union officials. Mumin was picked up by authorities while conducting a seminar for reporters about enhancing media freedom.
Mumin tweeted about the ordeal on Thursday morning, saying that the officers interrogated him before attempting to shake him down. Shortly after sending the tweets, SJS members informed HOL that their leader was rearrested along with one of the workshop trainers, Hanad Ali Guled.
The Somali Journalists Syndicate condemned the arbitrary arrest.
Mumin was one of the event organizers, which was titled ‘Enhancing Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists in Somalia Through Training on Security and Advocacy.’ The Somali Journalists Syndicate hosts several similar workshops around Somalia each year.
According to Mumin, officers took him to the Jowhar police station for the first time on Wednesday along with the manager of the hotel that was hosting the seminar. Once there, he says the hotel manager was berated by officers while in the presence of high-ranking police and government officials.
At the police HQ, we were taken to a small room where Minister of Interior, Police Chief and few other officials were sitting. Officers harassed the hotel manager, insulted him and threatened (him) with arrest for hosting our journalists’ training.”
The police allegedly tried to strong-arm Mumin into revealing sensitive information about the workshop participants, including their clan affiliations.
“I intervened to explain our ongoing journalists’ safety training. They asked me about the training content, list of participants, clan identities, and our origins. I insisted all these details remain confidential and that we cannot reveal our journalists’ identities.”
After releasing the hotel owner from custody, Mumin said that three plain-clothed individuals further interrogated him. He said that the officers then demanded his mobile phone and cash, which he refused.
“The old officer then asked me to surrender my phones & cash, which I refused to do on a condition that he was not uniformed & that I was not sure whether he is genuine police or not. They threatened me again. I told them they will be held responsible for everything (that) happens to me.”
Mumin said that the first encounter ended with the police spokesperson apologizing and arranging an escort back to the hotel. He said that he was never given formal explanation.
“I was then escorted back to my hotel by the local police spokesperson who apologized to me and said that “there was a mistake!”. Then the deputy governor did the same and apologized to me. I’m still waiting for an explanation, but safe!”
Despite commitments from the Federal Government, Somalia consistently ranks at the bottom globally for press freedom. Corruption is also endemic in the country, with Somalia being ranked bottom of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index every year since 2006.
Civil society leaders have called on Somali authorities to clamp down on police corruption and intimidation ahead of national elections which have been delayed.