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Somaliland reporter arrested, beaten in custody

Journalist Mohamed Abdirahman was arrested and brutally assaulted while in police custody. (Omer Albashiir)

New York, February 28, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns last week's arrest and brutal assault of Mohamed Abdirahman, a journalist in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland. 

Police arrested Abdirahman, a reporter for the local news site Subulahanews, on the morning of February 21 in the northwestern town of Borama, and accused him of publishing a false story that claimed Ethiopian separatists with the Ogaden National Liberation Front had settled in the northwestern town of Lughaya, local journalists said.

While in custody, Abdirahman was beaten by four police officers with sticks and the butt of a gun until he lost consciousness, local journalists and news reports said. Police took the journalist to Borama Hospital, where he was treated in the intensive care unit for his internal injuries, according to local journalists and news reports. He was moved to Hargeisa Hospital today so he could receive more advanced treatment, local journalists said.

"This vicious attack against Mohamed Abdirahman is the latest example of the severely deteriorating press freedom climate in Somaliland," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "Authorities must ensure a thorough and independent investigation into this crime, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."

Faisal Ali Sheekh Mohamed, the director general of the Information Ministry, told CPJ he was not aware of Abdirahman's case but would investigate the matter.

On February 19, two reporters for the weekly Ogaal were arrested for publishing a similar report on the ONLF. One of the journalists, Mohamed Abdi, told CPJ they were arrested on the orders of the interior minister and were taken to the Central Investigation Department in the capital, Hargeisa. Both journalists were released on Sunday, local journalists said.

Somaliland authorities have repeatedly arrested and arbitrarily detained independent journalists for reporting on cases of disputed regions in the semi-autonomous republic. Authorities arrested at least 28 independent journalists without charge in January, according to CPJ research.

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