Ten journalists have been arrested and detained in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, the self-declared independent region of Somalia, for covering an attempted jail break.
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), reported on Friday that the journalists who all work for local independent media organisations, were arrested for covering a daring attempted prison break on Wednesday in Hargeisa.
The Hargesia prison is a high security facility in the city where more than 150 criminal and terror convicts are being held.
A group of the detained men reportedly attempted to escape, leading to a fierce battle and in the ensuing clash with the police, media stations got wind of the melee and sent out reporters to cover the incident.
“The ten journalists were arrested as they covered a standoff between inmates and guards at the Hargeisa Central Prison where a riot broke out after prisoners started hurling stones at the guards,” NUSOJ said in the statement by Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman.
“Reinforcements were called in and journalists from different media responded to the ensuing commotion that saw the guards open fire, to quell a protest by the inmates who were armed with stones,” Osman added.
According to the group, the police, following up on the arrest of the journalists, raided the independent Horn Cable TV headquarters in Hargeisa in efforts to prevent broadcasts on the events at the prison.
NUSOJ published a list of journalists it said were still in detention and demanded their urgent release, which included local MM TV journalist Mohamed Ilig and Hassan Gallayr, a BBC Somali service reporter.
Others included Niciima Abdi (Caroodeg Media), Ahmed Mahmud (Saab TV), Aydaruus Mahamed (Goobjoog online news site), Ahmed Shimali of HCTV, Mahamed Faan of MM TV and Ahmed Samraawi of Bulsho TV.
But in defence of the clampdown on the media, the Commander of Somaliland Prison Corps, General Ahmed Awale Yusuf, claimed that the affected journalists had shared false news.
“There are people who misinformed the public about the small incident that happened at the prison,” Gen Yusuf told the media.
“We hold them accountable, and we will not allow such people to go unpunished,” he added.