- A Somaliland court has today given seven days to the prosecution to present its case against two local journalists who were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly defaming the President and his family in an opinion article. The repeated arrests of Somaliland journalists are received with frustration among citizens, otherwise proud of their breakaway republic's democratic advances.
In a telephone conversation with 'Awdalnews Network', Abdifatah Mahmoud Aideed, 'Somaliland Times' assistant editor, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the paper. "The relevant op-ed was the latest of a series in which one of the reporters compares government corruption practices between the government of the late President Mohammed Ibrahim Egal and the incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin," he said.
Mr Aideed further noted that there was nothing that could be described as defamation against the President or his family. The assistant editor accused the government of using highhandedness in arresting Yusuf Abdi Gaboobe, editor-in-chief of 'Somaliland Times', and Ali Abdi Dini, editor of the Somali language 'Haatuf' newspaper, while they were working in the paper's offices.
About 30 police officers had stormed into the sister newspapers' offices on Tuesday 2 January without an official warrant and took the two editors away for detention at the CID headquarters.
'Haatuf' reported that the editors first refused to accompany the police, requesting them to produce an official arrest warrant, but had later accepted to go with them after the police scuffled with some of the staff.
"The police has violated the country's press law that has been approved by the parliament and endorsed by the President which bans the arrest and detention of journalists," Mr Aideed said, adding that Somaliland Police Commander General Mohammed Dubad Saqadi claimed that the law allowed him to arrest reporters if they published slanderous accusations against the President and his family.
'Awdalnews Network' tried to reach government officials but all our calls remained unanswered. The two editors were brought to court today during which the judge had asked the prosecution to present his case within seven days.
The repeated tough action against the Somaliland press is also causing increased frustrations by Somalilanders abroad. "Somalilanders in the Diaspora who have been trying to sell to the public and government officials of whichever country they live the successes of the people of Somaliland cannot swallow this one. How can one justify imprisoning and harassing media people?" asks Abdi Goud Musa, living in the US.
"Somalilanders have to be commended and thanked for keeping the peace, rebuilding our homeland, and establishing democratically elected institutions in the local administration of every town in Somaliland, elected parliamentarians, elected president and now working on how to elect members of the upper house of parliament. Though these are positive and steps in the right direction, arbitrary arrest of the media people and rampant corruption are steps backward," the occasional columnist noted.
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