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Somalia Releases Al-Jazeera Journalist

Al-Jazeera journalist Hamza Mohamed is seen in a picture from his Twitter account. (Source - @Hamza_Africa)
Al-Jazeera journalist Hamza Mohamed is seen in a picture from his Twitter account. (Source - @Hamza_Africa)

Somali authorities have released al-Jazeera journalist Hamza Mohamed along with a fixer and a cameraman, two days after their arrest.

Security forces had detained the men for questioning in Mogadishu after they went to an area controlled by militant group al-Shabab.

Somali Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Mareye told VOA the men entered Somalia without the government's knowledge, traveled to a "terrorist-held area" and were planning to leave the country with what he called a one-sided story.

Mohamed confirmed his release to VOA's Somali service Thursday but declined to discuss the details of his arrest.

Al-Jazeera and the National Union of Somali Journalists had appealed for Mohamed's release.

The secretary-general of the journalists' union, Mohamed Ibrahim Moallimu, says journalists in Somalia are often detained without arrest warrants.

“We are very concerned about the summary detention of journalists without due process," he said. "We urge that journalists' rights are not violated at a time when Somalia is preparing for elections."

Moallimu says 17 journalists have been arrested or detained across Somalia this year, and none of them were changed.

Somalia has long been known as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work. Moallimu says three journalists have been killed this year. Dozens more have been killed since the country descended into civil war in 1991.

On Tuesday, Somali authorities released the editor of a local newspaper. The editor of Xog-Ogaal newspaper, Abdi Aden Guled, was released after negotiations between the government and the National Union of Somali Journalists.

Guled said the security agents who arrested him complained about a picture published by the paper last week, showing the killing of civilians by al-Shabab in the town of El-Ali.