More than ten journalists were arrested by police in Hargeisa yesterday afternoon after covering breaking news about an altercation between prisoners and guards at the Hargeisa Central Prison. they have also been denied family visits and access to their attorneys, and some of the journalists are unaware of where they are being held, which is an absolute violation of the constitution, according to article 27(1) of the Somaliland constitution, any person deprived of his liberty has the right to meet as soon as possible with his legal representative, relatives, or any other persons he requests. In addition, the journalists are said to have been treated inhumanely and degradingly. In Somaliland, physical assaults, arbitrary arrests, and detentions of journalists are growing more common, in violation of the country’s constitution and international human rights instruments.
According to Gulied A. Jama, a human rights lawyer, this is the second time in the last ten years that the government has arrested such a large number of journalists.
Threats, arbitrary arrest and detention, and enforced disappearances are all too common when journalists report the truth. Journalist protection, as well as the abolition of impunity for attacks on them, is a global priority for ensuring freedom of expression.
Article 32 of Somaliland Constitution stipulates that the press is free and independent, and that any acts subjugate them are prohibited, that restricts the press is prohibited, Somaliland has also accepted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international treaties and norms, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which also supports and defends press freedom.
In light of the positive rhetoric and good legal framework, the Somaliland government must continue to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law. Arbitrary detentions against free expression are a violation of the law, and they jeopardize Somaliland’s democratic culture and rule of law, which it markets in its recognition seeking efforts.
According to the Human Rights Center’s annual report for 2021, a total of 114 people were arrested for instances involving freedom of expression. In the social media, there were also reports of beatings and threats directed at journalists.
Press laws and policies in Somaliland protect freedom of expression. However, many of the laws aimed at protecting journalists’ working conditions and assisting the media in fulfilling its developmental role in society have yet to be properly enforced, and journalists have frequently been arrested illegally despite the obvious stipulations of the law.
When journalists are prosecuted, the courts use an outdated penal code that includes a number of vague and overly broad crimes, such as criminal defamation; insulting a public officer or institution; and contempt against the nation, state, or flag, all of which violate regional and international human rights standards. As a result, government officials use these vague criminal laws to silence critical realism.
Journalists’ safety, on the other hand, is critical to our civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights; they play a critical role in exposing the truth and holding parties accountable in public.
Somaliland, which was formed as a result of civilian opposition to the dictatorship regime that rendered the constitution null and void, must ensure the freedom and independence of the media as enshrined in the constitution, as it is an indicator and a foundation of Somaliland’s democratic culture. The government has an obligation to protect and prosecute attacks on journalists because free media and journalists must be protected in order to ensure the public’s right to know and hold governments and institutions accountable.
The government must stop harassing the media and individual journalists, withdraw all allegations against those detained journalists, and end the recent practice of arresting, threatening, and harassing journalists; otherwise, people will smell dictatorship culture and rise up against the government, endangering the country’s and the Horn’s stability and security.
In the interests of the Somaliland people, civil society actors should also support and highlight the critical role that the media plays in the formation of a democratic society. Individual journalists and civil society organizations must continue to fight for journalist safety.
The government should guarantee that the public is kept informed and that people are free to express their opinions, including criticism of the government, and decision-makers have a responsibility to respect, uphold, and prevent human rights violations.
Yousef Timacade has a master’s degree in law and a master’s degree in executive management, and has been working with national and international organizations for the last 10 years in the areas of program management, research, and human rights.