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British Al-Jazeera reporter freed in Somalia

October 20, 2016

A British journalist arrested in Mogadishu while on a reporting assignment has been released by Somalian security forces, his employer Al-Jazeera said on its website Thursday.

Hamza Mohamed was arrested on Tuesday along with a driver, fixer and cameraman. He had been in the country for a week.

Somali authorities had earlier informed Al-Jazeera that they had detained the journalist but that he had not been charged with anything.

Hamza Mohamed had frequently travelled to the country over the past few years from where he had reported “with accuracy and integrity”, Al-Jazeera said in an online report.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had said Hamza and his colleagues were arrested on their return from a trip outside the capital, during which they were suspected of visiting territory controlled by the radical Islamist group Shabaab to interview senior Shabaab leaders.

“Journalists are constantly caught in the crossfire of the war between government forces and Al-Shabaab’s armed militants. They are either the victims of deadly reprisals by the militants or they are arrested by the authorities on suspicion of collaborating with Al-Shabaab,” said RSF.

RSF said the arrest came just days after the detention of Abdi Aden Guled, editor-in-chief of the daily Xog-Ogaal who was arrested on Sunday and freed on Tuesday.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists: 45 Somali reporters were killed between 2007 and 2015, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The main threat is from Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab fighters trying to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, however authorities are also accused of numerous violations.

RSF lists Somalia as 167th out of 180 countries in its 2016 press freedom index.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.