Authorities in Puntland should immediately release journalist Ahmed Ali Kilwe, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Security forces in Garowe, the administrative capital of the semi-autonomous region of Somalia, have detained Ahmed, the founder of the news website Puntlandone.com, since July 2, according to media reports.
Media reports and three journalists who cover Puntland who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation said they believed Ahmed’s arrest was linked to a June 23 Facebook post that Ahmed wrote criticizing the president of Puntland and his use of public funds. In a statement published today, the press freedom group Media Association of Puntland said that senior Puntland officials had told them that counterterrorism police detained Ahmed on the orders of President Abdiweli Ali for “posting articles impertinent to the Puntland president.”
“Ahmed Ali Kilwe’s detention without charge sends a terrifying message to journalists in Puntland,” said CPJ’s Africa Program coordinator, Angela Quintal, in New York. “Authorities should release Ahmed without further delay, and should allow him and all journalists to work without fear of reprisal.”
Ahmed was initially held at a prison at a police checkpoint near Garowe, Omar Mohamed, of Media Association of Puntland, told CPJ. Security forces also use the facility to jail suspected members of the armed group Al-Shabaab, Omar said. In an email, MAP Secretary General Fatima Mohamed Mohamud today said that Ahmed had since been moved to Puntland Central Prison.
General Director of Puntland’s Ministry of Information Mowlid Abukar Abkey did not respond to CPJ’s repeated phone calls and text messages seeking comment. Vice Minister of Information Abdirizak Omar Ismail told CPJ that he was committed to protecting journalists, but that he could not speak about Ahmed’s specific case because he knew nothing about it. CPJ could not reach the president’s office for comment.