NISA accuses veteran journalist being a threat to national security

April 03, 2020 (Awdinle Online) – Somalia’s intelligence agency on Thursday made some damning allegations against a respected journalist who co-authored one of the key books on Al-Shabaab and Islamic militancy in Somalia.

Harun Maruf a journalist with VOA and author of “Inside Al-Shabaab, the Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally,” was labelled a threat to Somalia’s national security by NISA.

In a statement released on the agency’s twitter, NISA said that it would be taking legal action against Harun Maruf who they described as being a threat to Somalia’s domestic security. It added that Maruf operated outside the acceptable boundaries of journalism and warned government institutions of working with him.

NISA did not indicate what the action would be or who Maruf was allegedly working with.

The vague statement was called into question by many who viewed it as a blatant attack on media and the weaponization of government institutions against a popular journalist.

The statement comes at a time when there is heightened scrutiny of Somalia’s institutions as the Paris Club donors agree to cancel Somalia’s debt in return for the government’s commitment to reform.

While based in Washington DC, Maruf regularly reports on Somali news and is the host of an investigative program that consistently runs programs exposing Al-Shabaab operations but also critical of the government.

Fahad Yasin, the shadowy Director-General of NISA, is a close confidante of President Mohamed Farmaajo and arguably the most influential member of his administration. He previously worked as a reporter with Al-Jazeera.

Media  has attempted to reach Harun Maruf for a comment but was unable to contact him.

There was overwhelming support for Harun Maruf on social media, particularly on Twitter where he is active and enjoys a strong following. He is the most followed Somali journalist on twitter.

Government intimidation has led at least one other reporter to flee from Somalia and seek asylum abroad. Zakariye Mohamud Timaade a former Universal TV journalist fled after he began to receive threatening phone calls from NISA about his reporting. He left Somalia in 2019 and is now living in Sweden.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist. It consistently ranks on the bottom for press freedom according to Reporters Without Border.