By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somali police have detained freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who is also known as “Koronto”, without warrant and charges filed against him. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other local journalist organizations suspect that Koronto was brought to custody for interviewing women who claimed they were raped by national security forces.
On January 6, Al-Jazeera English published a story about government soldiers raping internally displaced women in Mogadishu camps.
4 days later, the Somali police’s Central Investigation Department (CID) in Mogadishu arrested one of those women, along with Omar Faruk, a correspondent for the Al-Jazeera Arabic Service in Somalia.
During interrogations, the head of CID, Gen. Abdullahi Hassan Barisse, allegedly compelled the woman to give them contact information of any journalist who interviewed her for the Al-Jazeera story. According to local news reports, she gave Koronto’s name and phone number. Using the alleged rape victim’s phone, they called Koronto who admitted that he recently interviewed the same woman, but has yet to publish the story. The police ordered him to come to the CID headquarters. Koronto complied and was brought to custody on January 10. On the same day, the police searched his home and confiscated his belongings including his laptop and digital recorder.
During a phone interview with the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Koronto described what happened: “I received a phone call this afternoon from the number of the woman I interviewed, but, It was Gen. Barise, the CID chief and told me to come to the CID headquarters. When I came to the CID, I saw the woman. . . I was asked if I interviewed this lady and I said, ‘Yes, I interviewed.’ Later, I was told that I was under arrest.”
The CID decided to release the alleged rape victim provided that she returns the following week for further questioning. Omar Faruk was likewise released after convincing the police that he was not involved in the Al-Jazeera report. Koronto, however, remains in detention.
According to the CPJ, both the information minister and deputy information minister refused to answer the CPJ’s calls to clarify why the police is still keeping Koronto in custody.
“It is shameful that Somali authorities have arrested a woman who has reported a rape, and a reporter who documented her story, instead of conducting an investigation into this reported crime,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “There is absolutely no reason Abdulaziz Abdinuur should be in custody. He should be released immediately and his personal property returned.”
Meanwhile, Africa director at Human Rights Watch Daniel Bekele urged the President to take action, “President Hassan Sheikh should honor his commitment by making sure the police handling of this case doesn’t discourage journalists from reporting government abuses or victims from seeking justice.” “Silencing rape victims and journalists will not end sexual violence, but just reinforce Somalia’s climate of impunity,” Bekele added.
For further information, please see:
Human Rights Watch – Somalia: Free Journalist, Others Linked to Rape Allegation – 12 January 2013
RBC Radio – SOMALIA: Vicious Campaign against Somali Journalists Continues in Mogadishu – 12 January 2013
All Africa – Somalia: Journalist Arrested for Interviewing Reported Rape Victim – 11 January 2013
SpyGhana – Police In Somali Are Questioning A Journalist, Whiles Detaining Another – 11 January 2013