Crackdown on Free Press in Somalia Continues

Journalists say they were beaten by cops after being invited by a judge to cover court proceedings



Somalia's only had a full-fledged government for the last seven months or so, but that nascent government's already begun to flex its muscle in the realm of restricting rights. It made international headlines earlier this year when a court handed down a one-year prison sentence to a woman who accused security forces of rape and the journalist who interviewed her. (A higher court cleared her earlier this month, while upholding the journalist's sentence)  Now several Somali journalists covering the judiciary say they were brutalized by police after being invited to cover court proceedings by a judge. Via the Guardian:

At least five reporters were assaulted, some seriously, on Saturday,according to the National Union of Somali Journalists. The union leader said he believes the attack is related to recent media coverage of a woman who alleged that she was raped by uniformed men and then pressured by police to drop her case. The reporters had been invited to the court by its chairman, Hashi Elmi Nor, to cover hearings there but were "kicked out of the court" on the orders of a local police chief, the union said.

A court security official promised to take disciplinary action and asked the journalists to return. But when they did a soldier allegedly grabbed a gun and pointed to the journalists, threatened "to kill anyone who tries to enter, disobeying his commander".

After the journalists left again, police from the Afar-Irdood station in Hamarwein district "were ordered to chase and arrest the journalists", the union said. "The police started beating the journalists and pointing the gun at those who managed to escape."

A reporter and cameraman were seriously hurt and briefly detained, according to the union, whose treasurer suffered a broken finger as he tried to intervene. Eventually the court chairman ordered police to release the journalists and return their equipment.

The U.S. is embracing the new government in Somalia while the United Nations is looking to expand its peacekeeping mission in the country. One journalist has been killed in Somalia this year so far, following nineteen in 2012, with more than half coming after the formation of the post-transitional government in August.