The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has strongly condemned the assault on media freedom following the forceful entry of security forces into the headquarters of MM Somali TV on January 6. The IFJ, alongside the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), is calling for the immediate release of the detained journalist, Mohamed Abdi Sheikh, CEO of MM Somali TV, who remains in incommunicado custody.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger vehemently denounced the raid as a direct affront to journalism and democracy, adding that he was particularly concerned about reported torture and privacy violations. Bellanger said that he stood in solidarity with Somaliland journalists and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), calling for an end to the suppression of free journalism.

The raid on  MM Somali TV by Somaliland security forces occurred during a televised debate focusing on a controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Ethiopia and Somaliland. The MoU, which involves maritime cooperation, has sparked diplomatic tensions with Somalia and has been met with widespread public criticism.

Prior to the raid, Somaliland’s Minister of Information, Ali Hassan Mohamed, warned journalists and media outlets against discussing the MoU. Critics argued that this preemptive measure was an attempt to stifle free speech and public debate.

NUSOJ’s Secretary General, Omar Faruk Osman, reasons that if the Somaliland authorities genuinely believe in the merits of the MoU, it should withstand public scrutiny without resorting to repressive tactics against the press. “By arbitrarily detaining journalists,” Osman notes, “the authorities only confirm that they have something to hide and do not want certain information to become public knowledge.”

The incident has also sparked internal political reactions within the self-declared Republic. Notably, the resignation of Abdiqani Mohamoud Aateeye, a key minister in President Musa Bihi’s government, in protest against the MoU, underscores the internal divisions and concerns regarding Ethiopia’s intentions.