A Somali-British journalist has been freed after her illegal detention in Somaliland. A court in Hargeisa, the region’s capital, sentenced Bushaaro Ali Mohamed to one year in prison yesterday. However, the journalist, who also goes by Bushaaro Baanday, was freed the same day after reportedly paying a fine in exchange for the remaining nine months of jail term.
Hargeisa, Somaliland, SOMALIA. By Yahya:
It remains unclear what reporting angered Somaliland’s authorities and prompted Ms Bushaaro’s arrest. The journalist often criticized Somaliland authorities and demanded more accountability from the government. She runs a popular Facebook page, which has 800,000 followers. Before she got arrested by Somaliland’s police, Ms Bushaaro conducted interviews with people about floods in one of Somaliland’s cities and alleged medical negligence.
Somaliland police officers arrested the journalist on the evening of 15 May after she entered the border town of Wajale from Ethiopia. The policemen took her to custody in Hargeisa. In the following days, they interrogated her and allegedly kicked and slapped her, causing injuries to her face and leg. Two days after her arrest, Ms Bushaaro appeared at the regional Hargeisa court without legal representation, making her detention illegal from several viewpoints.
Calls for her release
The court charged her with fabricated offences, including “disseminating propaganda and undermining Somaliland’s national security and unity.” Press freedom watchdogs, like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have been calling for her release.
“Somaliland journalist Bushaaro Ali Mohamed should be released unconditionally and without delay, and she should be allowed to report on matters of public interest without interference. Having a dissenting or critical opinion should never land any journalist in prison. Authorities should encourage rather than suppress diverse views in the public sphere,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo.
Ms Bushaaro is originally from Somaliland but currently resides in the United Kingdom. She holds citizenship in both nations, although Somaliland is a self-proclaimed state that has not been internationally recognized.