The United Nations official dealing with conflict-related sexual violence today condemned the arrest of a Somali journalist who was detained for conducting an interview with a woman who claimed she was raped by members of the Somali Army in September.
"Allegations of rape should be met with objective investigations by the proper authorities, not detention for victims who come forward or arrest for journalists who report on such crimes," said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura. "The approach taken by the Somali police does not serve the interest of justice; it only serves to criminalize victims and undermine freedom of expression for the press."
The journalist, who worked for Radio Ergo and other media outlets, was detained on Thursday by Somali police, while another journalist working for a separate media outlet was also called in for questioning. In addition, the woman interviewed by the Radio Ergo journalist was also detained, as was the person who introduced them. The reporter had yet to publish the interview in any media outlet before his arrest.
"I condemn the use of sexual violence in any context, and I call on the Government of Somalia to release the reporter and investigate the allegations of rape," Ms. Bangura said in a statement. "Victims should not have to live in fear and shame while perpetrators enjoy the very protections that should be afforded to survivors."
Ms. Bangura stressed that attempts to intimidate reporters rather than investigate crimes of sexual violence diminish the credibility of Government institutions while letting criminals go free.
"Regardless of the facts of the case, journalists have a right to report on allegations of rape and survivors should not be discouraged from coming forward to report sexual assault cases to the authorities. Only when we shine a light on these crimes will we be able to break what has long been called history's greatest silence," she said, adding that her office will continue to monitor the case closely.