Mogadishu (Raxanreeb) — Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) welcomes that the secretary general Abdalle Ahmed Mumin re-gained his freedom after 166 days of routine detentions, harassment, intimidation, persecution and other threats on his life due to his work as the leader of the journalists union and his role as a fearless human rights defender.
Mr. Mumin, also an award-winning journalist, was initially targeted on 11 October 2022 when he was detained, without a warrant, from Mogadishu Airport while preparing to board a flight to Nairobi. It was a day after the local media organizations jointly issued a press release expressing concern about a new directive to ban and censor independent media coverage. On the same day armed officers of the national intelligence (NISA) raided the SJS office.
After disappearing for two days, Mumin was later found at the Godka Jila’ow, a notorious national intelligence-run detention and torture facility in Mogadishu where he was held for three days in a small underground cell before being transferred to police custody. He was later freed on bail only to be re-detained again on 18 October 2022, but the appeals court granted a second bail that unlawfully restricted his movement and his right to freedom of speech.
Since January, Mr. Mumin had four court hearings at the Banadir Regional Court following his refusal to accept two unlawful conditions: that Mumin quits media activism and to issue a full apology by retracting the joint press release of the press freedom organizations. Those conditions were proposed by the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Abdirahman Al Adalah. Despite the constant and invisible threats against his life, Mr. Mumin and his lawyers went to the court to defend against all the charges and with bravery exposed the human rights abuses committed by certain government officials.
On 13 February 2023, the Banadir Regional Court chairman, Salah Ali Mohamud, who previously threatened Mr. Mumin, through a sham trial, issued a wrong sentence of two months imprisonment, however the central prison commander refused to arrest Mr. Mumin and freed him on the same day. On 23 February 2023, police and NISA officers led by the Banadir regional police chief, Mo’alim Mahdi and his associates Mr. Faratol, Said Baryare and Nuradin Mohamed Hussein detained Mr. Mumin at the Jazeera Hotel while participating in a meeting of the Federal Parliament’s Upper House. He was initially held at a private house in Mogadishu’s Bondhere district for two days before being transferred to the central prison where he was kept for 33 days.
Mr. Mumin has been subjected to various abuses and has his health deteriorated. He has also witnessed firsthand of human rights violations by the police and the national intelligence, including women and men detainees who have been subjected to sexual abuse, use of severe torture in interrogation of detainees, demands of bribes. Majority of the detainees Mr. Mumin met and interviewed were from minority communities.
Following his release, Mr. Mumin was again barred from travelling on 27 March 2023 by the Mogadishu airport immigration officials who said they were receiving orders from the director of NISA, Mr. Mahad Salad. Due to the mounting pressure, Mr. Mumin, was however allowed to fly out and meet his doctor and family the next day in Nairobi.
“I am extremely glad that I was able to travel out, see my family and my doctor. I have been feeling unwell. Thanks to my doctors, they were able to treat me and release me after several days in the hospital. I thank God that my health condition has improved now,” SJS Secretary-General Abdalle Mumin said.
“The past six months have tested us and it has been very challenging to us as the SJS team, the journalists community in Somalia, and the entire press freedom and human rights defenders. But we all have stood firm. I appreciate our friends, colleagues and supporters from international partners for their unrelenting solidarity and steadfastness. We all believe in what is just and right: and that is the respect for human rights. Our cause is morally right and our thirst for human rights and justice is insatiable,” Mr. Mumin added. “I can assure you that the time I spent in the various detention facilities has reinforced my beliefs and quest for justice and fairness and I remain more than ever before committed to stand alongside the marginalised community and my people in the face of adversity.”
SJS is grateful to the international partners, human rights groups, local and international media, members of the Federal Parliament of Somalia and the Somali community for standing with us in our quest for press freedom and respect of human rights.
“It’s important to make it clear that the threats, intimidation and abuse of power by individuals in the government system are committing major violations against human rights including attacks of journalists. The attack on Abdalle Mumin is not the end but it’s part of an ongoing violence and repression. We call for the immediate accountability of these individuals,” SJS President Mohamed Ibrahim said “Accountability through the local legal system or through other international mechanisms will lead to an end of the culture of impunity and violence, and will prevent the recurrence of further violations. This will eventually contribute to achieving peace and democracy in Somalia.”
Somalia’s international partners, human rights groups and all the local and international community members can play a role in protecting the human rights of Somali citizens, including protecting the rights of minority groups including journalists, women and girls. It is not only a moral obligation, but it is a legal obligation.