Somali security agents have released Al Jazeera journalist Hamza Mohamed, who was arrested Tuesday in Mogadishu.
Radio Shabelle reports that Mohamed and cameraman Nur Mohamed were released from custody in the Somali capital. The Qatari news network had confirmed that Mohamed, a British national, was detained with the cameraman and two others while in Somalia on a reporting assignment. The Federal Republic of Somalia told Al Jazeera he was held for questioning.
Mohamed’s work has included interviews with Al Shabaab leaders including the group’s spokesman Sheikh Ali Dheere, the radio network said. The militants are increasing attacks ahead of the November elections, with at least 10 people killed in a police station attack in Afgooye, near Mogadishu, on Tuesday.
The high-profile arrest of Mohamed is the latest in Somalia, where security forces and Al Shabaab militants alike intimidate reporters and suppress media outlets. Radio Shabelle lost one of its own journalists three weeks ago, when Abdi Aziz Ali was shot and killed on his way home to the Yaqshid district of Mogadishu.
His death has met with condemnation from international NGOs, media outlets and government leaders.
Journalists in Somalia are restricted by a January law that codified measures that chill journalistic speech and independence, with 42 articles that can easily be interpreted to support prosecution of working media professionals. A National Union of Somali Journalists report on the law details the licensing, registration and educational requirements they say are barriers to a free press in Somalia.
In August, a report issued by UNSOM and UNHCR detailed “killings, beatings, harassment, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, lack of due process or fair trial guarantees, and closure of media outlets.”
The most recent of those closures was last weekend, when Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency raided one of the nation’s oldest newspapers and arrested the editor. The Committee to Protect Journalists, which has ranked Somalia as the worst country on earth for journalists to be killed with impunity, condemned that raid and shared concern over an anticipated increase in similar incidents ahead of Somalia’s November elections.
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