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Somali journalist arrested after interviewing reported rape victim

A woman and her children stand at a settlement for internally displaced persons in Somalia, with armed police standing by.
A woman and her children stand at a settlement for internally displaced persons in Somalia, with armed police standing by.

Kate Holt/IRIN

A Somali freelance journalist has been detained without charge since 10 January after interviewing a woman who says she was raped by state security forces. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that Abdiaziz Abdinur was summoned by the Central Investigations Department (CID) last Thursday, in connection with the interview he conducted with the woman.

According to Human Rights Watch, the CID detained the reported victim, along with an acquaintance who had put her in contact with journalists. Police allegedly used the woman's cell phone to call Abdiaziz Abdinuur in for questioning.

Authorities also searched the journalist's home, says Human Rights Watch, although it is unclear if they had a search warrant. Local journalists and news reports mentioned by CPJ say that Abdiaziz told police that he had interviewed the woman, but had not published her story.

The woman says she had been living in a camp for internally displaced persons in Mogadishu when she was raped, according to news reports mentioned by CPJ.

In a statement, CPJ's East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes noted, "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."

Local sources cited by Human Rights Watch say that the woman was released on 11 January after her husband went to the police station and was arrested in her place. Nevertheless, the woman's acquaintance remains in detention. Human Rights Watch further notes that police also questioned other Somali journalists, among them Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Omar Faruk and Abdiaziz Mohamed Dirie, a radio journalist who was detained for one night in the National Security Agency facilities. Local and international sources cited by Human Rights Watch also state that a staff member of a women's rights organization, who assisted the reported victim, was also interrogated.

Al-Jazeera English published a story on 6 January about government soldiers raping internally displaced women in Mogadishu camps. According to CPJ, it is uncertain if the woman mentioned in the article is the one interviewed by Abdiaziz Abdinur. Regardless, local journalists believe the publication of the Al Jazeera story is what compelled the police to look for the woman who made the allegations, says CPJ.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has denounced Abdiaziz Abdinur's detention, stating that “… to arrest a journalist for holding an interview to find the truth is a serious violation of freedom of expression.” The organization further calls for the release of the journalist and of those still in detention.

Human Rights Watch notes that Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has publicly committed to holding abusive state security forces to account, including those responsible for rape.

“Silencing rape victims and journalists will not end sexual violence, but just reinforce Somalia's climate of impunity,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, in a press release.

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