Journalist detained over report on graft in local prison

Security officials in Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland arrested a radio editor on Monday over a story on corruption in a local prison, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

Awale Jama Salad's detention without charge is the second time in recent months, CPJ said on Tuesday, quoting the Somali Journalists Union (NUSOM).

He was arrested in Bossaso, the commercial capital of Puntland in northeastern Somalia, over the story that highlighted conditions in the local prison.

The arrest follows Jama's reports in July on his previous imprisonment, according to NUSOM. The reports, broadcast on STN radio and reproduced up by some local newspapers, alleged that officials at Bossaso prison were taking bribes to free prisoners, and that conditions in the jail were so bad they were causing the spread of diseases.

Puntland authorities have accused Jama of defamation and publishing false information, but he has not been charged.

"By punishing this journalist for his firsthand reports, Puntland authorities send a clear signal that they want to keep secret what is going on in their prisons," Ann Cooper, the executive director of the CPJ, said in a statement.

"Awale Jama Salad has every right to tell the public about prison conditions in Puntland," she said. "He should be freed right away and without conditions."

In July, Jama was held in Bossaso Central Prison for nearly two weeks, along with Shaykh Aduun, a director of the local radio affiliate of the private STN network, and STN reporter Mohamed Ilke Ase.

The CPJ said "local sources" had informed the organisation that their imprisonment stemmed from the radio station's reporting on the mayoral campaign in Bossaso. They were later freed without charge.

In May, the Puntland government banned the weekly newspaper, Shacab, following a campaign of harassment.

When editor Abdi Farah Nur tried to defy the ban in June, he was imprisoned for more than two weeks without charge. He fled the country in fear for his security and Shacab remains closed.