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Somali Media Advocate Arrested Two Days After Bail Is Granted

Two days after a court freed Abdalle Ahmed Mumin on bail, the Somali Journalists Syndicate secretary general is back in custody.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin of the Somali Journalists Syndicate is back in custody Tuesday, just two days after a court freed him on bail. Officers from the Somali National Intelligence Agency, or NISA, detained Mumin at the airport as he prepared to travel to Nairobi in Kenya for medical treatment.

This was the second arrest in a week. Police so far have not commented on the case.

Mohamed Ibrahim is president of the Somali Journalists Syndicate.

“At about 5 p.m., NISA officials at the airport arrested Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, who was heading to Nairobi. Then, NISA transferred Abdalle to the police, and he is currently held at the CID headquarters,” he said.

Mumin was first arrested on October 11 on what authorities say are security-related charges.

Ibrahim said authorities charged his colleague with instigating disobedience of the law, contempt of the state and failure to obey orders from authorities.

A Mogadishu court on Sunday granted Mumin bail in that case.

Ibrahim said his organization is fighting for Mumin’s unconditional release.

“Abdalle was denied [permission] to meet with his lawyers and to meet with his people. He is being kept incommunicado. As [the] Somali Journalists Syndicate, we condemn the move, and we call upon the Somali government to immediately release Abdalle and stop harassing the media,” he said.

Journalists in Somalia expressed concern over the arrest and also over a government directive banning media coverage of the militant group, Al-Shabab.

Media organizations protested the directive, saying it amounts to suppression of freedom of expression and puts journalists at risk from the militant group.

Said Yusuf is a photographer with the European Press Agency.

“Recently, the government has exerted pressure on the media, particularly private media. The media was suppressed when it comes to getting information, and now targeted arrests have been started. What is good for the media is to get the freedom of expression. Therefore, we call for media freedom of expression,” he said.

VOA reached out to the head of Somalia’s criminal investigations department, Colonel Guled Sheikh Hussein, but he declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the arrest.

Abdullahi Hassan, a conflict researcher for Amnesty International, said the Somali government is backpedaling on its commitment to the rule of law.

“The continued persecution of Abdalle Mumin just days after he was released on bail by the Banadir Regional Court demonstrates Somali authorities' blatant disregard for the rule of law and lack of respect for freedom of expression. Abdalle has committed no crime and must be immediately and unconditionally released,” he said.

Hassan said the arrest sends a troubling message.

“Targeting a prominent defender of human rights and press freedom under the guise of national security sends a chilling message to journalists, human rights activists and anyone else who dares to criticize authorities,” he said.

Somalia is the most dangerous country for media in Africa, with journalists under pressure from the government and militants, says media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.