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Exiled Journalist Moves Audience To Tears 

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin’s powerful speech moved some audience members to tears as he told of his unlawful 44-day incarceration at a notorious Somali jail. 

“Imagine being a journalist where it is between life and death. That is where I come from”, he said.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin talks about the many threats to Somali Journalists.

As the opening speaker at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism and Media Week, Mumin used his own personal experiences to illustrate how the human rights of Somali journalists are regularly, and flagrantly, attacked by government and other militant forces. Somali is ranked 141st out of 180 countries according to the World Press Freedom Index. 

His own journalistic career has been one of repeated government harassment, interference and intimidation.  

On the 11th of October 2022, Mumin was at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde airport, due to fly to Nairobi to visit family. But forty minutes before the flight, he was arrested by uniformed and plain clothes members of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).  

He was then taken to Godka Jilaow Prison in Mogadishu. The prison is named after the famously brutal general Ahmed Jilaow Adow. It means Jilaow’s Ditch. The place reflects its namesake: daytime temperatures regularly reach 40 degrees Celsius. 

Mumin is the secretary general of the Somali Journalist Syndicate (SJS). He is a particularly prominent Somalian journalist. It is thought he was targeted because the previous day he and members of the SJS had criticized a new, and particularly vague, law on their ability to cover extremism. 

While in prison Mumin was denied access to a lawyer; interrogated for 8 hours; beaten and confined to a tiny, windowless cell. From this concrete cubicle he said he “could hear the screams of other prisoners”.  

He said: “I closed my eyes, thought of my family and prepared to die”.

But even at this moment Mumin “knew as a journalist I had an opportunity”. He started to interview other detainees about their backgrounds and committing their stories to memory. They ranged in age “from fourteen to elderly”, mostly from Somalia’s marginalised groups. 

Forty-four days later he was released.   

He remains an exile from his home country but continues to advocate for the rights of Somali journalists. Mumin appealed to the Leeds audience with a simple request “to write to the British Government to ask where the funding to Somalia is going?”.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin’s talk was titled Fighting for the Truth.

He said that so great is the daily jeopardy that journalists find themselves in Somalia, that they are now self-censoring to survive. He said many are pressured by their own families to quit their vocation.  

But it is the external threats, rather than internal ones, that are the greatest danger. He has said that the Mohamud government, Al-Shabaab, competing clans and criminal organizations all ‘squeeze’ Somali journalists.  He said that as a journalist “all sides of the conflict consider you an enemy.” 

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin began by asking the crowd to imagine working in a place where journalism ‘is a dance between life and death’, by the end of his talk a lot less imagination was required.  

What do you think?