In a televised event, the government of the Republic of Somaliland has released a dozen reporters arrested following the Hargeisa Prison revolt on April 12th. Although no charges or criminal complaints were filed against the 15 reporters, courts have granted Somaliland police a remand to keep them in custody without charge.
On various media appearances, some government officials have accused the detained journalists of trespassing on military and security-related premises and filing false reports regarding the unfolding revolt inside Hargeisa Prison.
It is unclear if the release of the dozen reporters and media workers results from an investigation and if charges are forthcoming for the three journalists still behind bars. Members of parliament, including veteran journalist-turned legislator Mr. Mohamed Hussein Jama (Rambo) and the Somaliland Journalist Association SOLJA, did not specify the terms of their release and have thanked the government for releasing the detained journalists.
The Ministers of Interior and Information who spoke to Somaliland government broadcaster did not address the media crackdown that has resulted in the detention of 17 reporters in hours following the Prison revolt. In their briefing, ministers Kore and Kahin stated that no one is above the law and anyone found to have broken it will be prosecuted accordingly and that Somaliland is a democratic nation that has held multiple free and fair elections.
It is unclear how the mass arrest of journalists will be perceived internationally, especially in the United States, where there is bipartisan support for direct cooperation with Somaliland on security and other sectors following President Bihi’s visit in March. The Somaliland Partnership Act was introduced in the US Senate by Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho includes an assessment of the human rights record of Somaliland’s security forces.