SOMALIA: NUSOJ Condemns 6-year jail sentence against media Director in Puntland

Published: August 14, 2010

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns in strongest terms possible the 6-year jail sentence handed today to Abdifatah Jama Mire, Director of Horseed Media, by the Puntland authorities, terming it “outrageous and the harshest punishment” given to a journalist in recent times in the semi-autonomous region of Somalia.
“Today press freedom was buried in broad day light in Puntland and indeed it is a black day for independent journalism in Puntland and all across Somalia,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, adding; “Abdifatah Jama Mire and Radio Horseed committed no single crime that justifies this harsh and unacceptable verdict”.
The police commissioner in charge of Bari region, with Bossasso as its headquarters, Colonel Abdisalam Aflaw, arrested Abdifatah and 7 other media workers from the radio station yesterday evening, Friday, 13 August 2010. The media workers were later released, but the director remained in custody.
The arrest of the Director comes after the radio carried an interview, the same day (Friday), of the rebel leader, Mohamed Said Atom, an Islamist commander whose forces are fighting the Puntland administration. The Puntland administration accused Abdifatah of broadcasting interviews of people who are against the administration.
Abdifatah was brought this morning to the First –Level Court of Bossasso without prior notice and the Puntland Prosecutor, Mohamud Mohamed Yusuf (Shimbir), charged him of “interviewing and broadcasting views of people who are fighting the government”. The prosecutor further asked the court to convict the Director to 3 years in jail.
Journalists who were present at the court told NUSOJ that neither the prosecutor nor the police brought any evidences to substantiate their allegations, nor did they allow the journalist to get a lawyer to defend himself, despite a request by the management of Horseed Media to a lawyer for the journalist. Surprisingly, the chair of the first level court, judge Farah Hassan Ismail, convicted Abdifatah Jama Mire to 6 years in jail plus US$500 fine. The journalist was found guilty of breaching the Anti-terror law in Puntland.
“Undoubtedly this is a politicised and reprehensible judgment that is meant to send a strong message of how Puntland authorities are prejudiced towards independent journalism, diversity of opinion and, a gross violation of journalists’ freedom to report on issues of public importance,” declared Omar Faruk. “Our colleague broke no law and we will defend him completely and with everything we have”.
The arrest, illegal detention and the subsequent sentence to imprisonment and fine are incongruous to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Charter, Puntland Constitution and the internationally agreed standards of freedom of expression.
“Puntland Administration seems to be waging all out war against free press. We call on progressive civil society and the international community to condemn this blatant violation and put pressure on Puntland to withdraw this disgraceful decision and free Abdifatah Jama Mire in order to carry out his noble services to the people,” Omar added.
On 10 August 2010, the Puntland Ministry of Information, Telecommunication and Culture issued a letter to Nuh Muse Birjeb who works for VOA Somali Service and Universal TV, ordering him to suspend his work. The letter did not give the reason behind the suspension. Journalists in Puntland, however, believe the decision to suspend Nuh Muse came from the top leadership of the administration, including the Puntland presidency. Journalists believe Nuh Muse has been enduring a series of repressive actions and intimidation tactics originating from senior Puntland officials who, according to the journalists, could not tolerate his news reports, though it is not clear where the reports that instigated the suspension were broadcast.

For further information, contact:
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Taleex Street, KM4 Area, Hodan District,
Mogadishu, Somalia, tel/fax: +252 1 859 944,

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