Mogadishu - Somali police have arrested a journalist who criticised the jailing of a colleague and a woman he interviewed who said she was raped by security forces, colleagues and rights groups said Tuesday.
Daud Abdi Daud, who works for Radio Kulmiye, was arrested on February 5 shortly after speaking out at the sentencing for one year of reporter Abdiaziz Abdinuur and the alleged rape victim he interviewed.
The initial case sparked international alarm and widespread criticism, with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon saying he was “deeply disappointed”.
But since then rights groups and Somalia's journalist union have warned security forces have continued to crack down on the media.
Human Rights Watch, quoting credible sources, said Daud had spoken out following the sentencing of his colleague and the woman “saying that journalists have the right to interview people.”
On Monday, Daud was transferred from police custody to the central prison in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, HRW added.
Mohamed Ibrahim, head of Somali's journalist union, said he was “outraged by the arbitrary arrests, threats and intimidations” against journalists following the case.
“We call for the Somali government to urgently release Daud and quash the conviction of Abdinuur, and come up with mechanism that guarantees free and independent media,” Ibrahim added.
Abdinuur and the woman were jailed for insulting state institutions, even though the journalist did not broadcast a story about the case.
The court deemed the woman's story to be false after a midwife conducted a “finger test” to see if she had been raped, a practice HRW said was an “unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited.”
Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and HRW said in a joint statement the initial case is “linked to increasing media attention given to the high levels of rape” including by security forces, in Somalia.
“Detaining Daud Abdi without charge is sending a broader message to journalists to stay silent,” said Leslie Lefkow, HRW's deputy Africa director added in a statement on Tuesday.
“The authorities should charge or release him, but they should not be shutting down free expression by jailing journalists and throwing away the key.”
Somalia has been ravaged by conflict since 1991, but a new UN-backed government took power in September ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled government.
Many have said the new government offers the most serious hope for stability since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.