Nairobi — Somali authorities should immediately release a freelance journalist who has been in custody in Mogadishu since Thursday for interviewing a woman who claimed she was raped by government soldiers, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Abdiaziz Abdinuur, who is also known as "Koronto," has reported for several local and international news outlets, including Dalsan Radio, Badri Media Productions, Radio Ergo, and the U.K.-based Daily Telegraph. He was summoned on Thursday to the Central Investigations Department (CID) in the capital for questioning in connection with his January 6 interview with an internally displaced woman who has claimed that she was raped by several soldiers last year, according to news reports and local journalists who spoke to Abdiaziz. No warrant was issued for the journalist's arrest, and no charges have been filed against him, the sources said.
The woman has claimed that she was raped by Somali soldiers while living in a camp for internally displaced persons in Mogadishu in December, according to news reports. On January 6, Al-Jazeera English published a story of government soldiers raping internally displaced women in Mogadishu camps. It is unclear if the woman mentioned in the Al-Jazeera story is the woman whom Abdiaziz interviewed, but local journalists said the Al-Jazeera report is what led to police looking for the source of the allegations.
Police also summoned for questioning Omar Faruk, a correspondent for the Al-Jazeera Arabic Service in Somalia, but released him after he said he had no connection with the Al-Jazeera English report.
CID Chief Abdullahi Hassan interrogated the reported victim early Thursday, demanding that she give them contact information for any journalists who interviewed her, and then used her phone to contact Abdiaziz, according to news reports. Police also arrested the woman, but released her on Thursday on the condition that she return today for further questioning.
Abdiaziz told police that he had interviewed the reported victim, but had not published the story, according to local journalists and news reports. Police searched his home and confiscated his laptop, digital recorder, and cellphone, local journalists said.
Authorities did not immediately disclose their reason for detaining and interrogating a person who reported a crime and the individuals to whom she reported it. Repeated calls to the information minister and deputy information minister were not answered.
"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."