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Somali Journalist arrested for denouncing directive to cover military operation

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The National Intelligence and Security Agency is holding Hassan Gessey, a Somali journalist and radio director at the independent Dalsan Radio, without charge. It is claimed that after Gessey criticized a directive to restrain from reporting on military operations.

According to news report, Gessey and Abubakar Moyhedin, a presenter and staff manager at the Mogadishu station, were arrested by armed members of the security services at around 9.00 am.

Local journalists  told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that Moyhedin was released after a couple of hours though Gessey remains in custody and has not been charged.

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“The arrest comes after Gessey gave several radio interviews in his capacity as chairman of the Somali Independent Media Houses Association (SIMHA) on Tuesday evening, including one for the U.S.-backed Voice of America Somali Service. In the interviews, Gessey denounced a directive made by the National Intelligence and Security Agency that called on the Somali press to restrict their coverage of a military operation,” stated CPJ.

Tom Rhodes, the representative at CPJ East Africa, also noted: “Somalia authorities seem to have committed a double press freedom violation: first they tried to censor the media by asking them not to report on certain military operations, and then they arrested a journalist who dared to criticize the censorship. We request authorities to release Hassan Gessey at once and let the press do its job.”

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Government spokesman Abdirahman Omar told CPJ that Information Minister Mustafa Dhuholow is looking into the interest of Gessey though the government has not yet responded to SIMHA’s concerns about the press directive.

According to SIMHA and some local journalists, the directive was given to media outlets on Tuesday during a meeting with the new security chief, Mohamed Aden Kofi. It asks the press to restrict coverage of operations against Al-Shabaab.

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SIMHA, an umbrella media support organization representing 28 independent outlets in Somalia, issued a statement on Tuesday calling on the National Assembly to step in what it considered as a violation of press freedom.

“Somali and African Union forces are currently involved in Operation Indian Ocean — a military operation to oust Al-Shabaab. The militia, which has links to al-Qaeda and is suspected of being linked to terror attacks in Kenya, has been pushed out of most Somali towns it once held, but insurgents still control large rural areas of the country,” stated CPJ.

Gessey is presently held at the Banadir, a regional security office locally known as “Godka Jila’ow.”

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