Continued detention of MM Somali TV founder Mohamed Ilig by Somaliland court amidst rising constraints on free expression

Continued detention of MM Somali TV founder Mohamed Ilig by Somaliland court amidst rising constraints on free expression

MOGADISHU – The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) voices its concern over the prolonged arbitrary detention of MM Somali TV founder and journalist, Mohamed Abdi Ilig, in Hargeisa. Today marks his 37th day in custody.

On Saturday 10 February, the Hargeisa-based Maroodi Jeex Regional Court has once again prolonged the detention of Mohamed Abdi Ilig by an additional seven days. This marks the second extension within the past fortnight. Previously, the court had issued a similar order to extend the detention by seven days on January 30, which expired last week.

Ilig was detained on 6 January, 2024 after moderating a political debate on X (formerly Twitter) regarding the Somaliland-Ethiopia MOU, which was hosted by MM Somali TV on the same day.

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.

On 1 February, Somaliland police in Berbera arbitrarily detained journalist Abdirahman Mohamed Ige of the privately-owned Horyaal TV after he posted criticisms regarding the manager of the Berbera fuel storage facility, Ahmed Ibrahim, on his Facebook page. Specifically, two of his posts, as reviewed by SJS, accused the government-appointed manager of nepotism by allegedly favoring close clan associates in employment practices. The manager reportedly filed complaint at the police resulting the journalist’s detention.

After spending five days in police custody, Abdirahman was released on 6 February, following a decision by a judge in the Berbera court who declined police requests to further detain him. Notably, upon his release, the Facebook posts in question were removed from the journalist’s page. Nevertheless, Abdirahman said he was glad to gain his freedom and expressed his determination to persist in shedding light on matters of public concern despite the ordeal.

SJS reiterates its call to Somaliland authorities to release Mohamed Abdi Ilig, the founder of MM Somali TV, and to halt the unwarranted actions aimed at harassing and intimidating both Ilig and his colleagues at MM Somali TV. The continued prolongation of his arbitrary detention serves no purpose other than to undermine Ilig’s morale, despite authorities being fully aware that he has not committed any criminal offense.

“We urge President Muse Bihi Abdi of Somaliland to exercise his authority and release Mohamed Abdi Ilig from detention. Furthermore, we implore him to instruct security officials to cease their intimidation tactics against journalists from MM Somali TV and other media practitioners within Somaliland,” said SJS Secretary-General Abdalle Ahmed Mumin.

“Journalism should not be met with threats of incarceration or harassment, especially when journalists are simply facilitating public interest discussions, in which even Somaliland officials have participated in such discussions,” Mumin adds.

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