Authorities in Puntland should immediately release journalist Ahmed Ali Kilwe, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Saturday.
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 criticising the president of Puntland and his use of public funds,” the CPJ said.
In a statement on Friday, the press freedom group Media Association of Puntland (MAP) said senior Puntland officials had told them that counter-terrorism 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,” CPJ Africa program co-ordinator Angela Quintal said 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 MAP 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 said 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.