By Jamal Ibrahim, email@example.com
HARGEYSA – A Somali journalist held in detention for asking the health minister a question about his work attendance problems that frustrated many including patients seeking medical attention abroad who subsequently missed important appointments with the minister is in poor health and has been refused visits from his family, according to his wife.
Mohamed Adan Dirir, the editor of the online portal www.horseednews.com was arrested last month after Somaliland’s minister Saleban Isse Ahmed who was apparently angered by the reporter’s question ordered his arrest.
Fahima Salah, the journalist’s wife says that Mr. Dirir is suffering complications from the horrendous conditions in addition to serious sanitation and medical care problems in the central prison in Hargeysa, Somaliland’s capital.
“His health is not so good—And more worse, he cannot even get a single tablet let alone healthcare,” the mother of two said in an interview with Alleastafrica on Tuesday.
Mrs. Salah who has managed to reach her husband through phones smuggled into the prison by guards twice since he was arrested said that her husband had also developed skin rushes, due to the poor sanitation in the prision.
Meanwhile, local journalists who interviewed former inmates who were released from the prison told Alleastafrica that “a culture of abuse” exists, with groups of guards conducting organized beatings of inmates in retaliation for verbal insults. Prisoners were also not protected against violence from other inmates, they said.
It’s unclear if the journalist is among inmates who were subjected to the alleged torture which common in the usually overcrowded central prison.
No charges have so far been brought against the journalist who was arrested on 27th May.
Known for defending the rights of civilians and critical reporting against corruption by officials in Somaliland, Mr. Dirir, 30 had several run-ins with local authorities who have subsequently arrested and released him after prosecutors failed to present evidence to back up his charges.
His arrest prompted criticism by media watchdogs in the region that have condemned the arrest, calling it ‘unjustifiable’.
Local media groups warned that the journalist’s arrest raised censorship specter in the enclave where journalists are routinely arrested by security forces.
He called for the immediate release of the journalist who is being held at the central prison in Hargeisa.
Harassment and intimidation against journalists have been a major concern for journalists based in Somaliland who have also seen waves of arrests and intimidation by local authorities in recent years.
Somaliland officials were not available for comment.
For years, there has been a tense relationship between the government and independent media. Government officials often accuse journalists of supporting and promoting anti-government sentiment, leading to the arrests of dozens of journalists in recent years.
Rights groups and media watchdogs have repeatedly urged Somaliland to ensure that independent media outlets are not harassed, and to allow journalists to practice their profession without fear of retaliation.
(Additional reporting and editing by Judy Maina, in Nairobi, Kenya)