Somalia: Journalist Sentenced to Three Years in Prison and a Fine in Somaliland

press release

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns strongly the three-year prison sentence handed to journalist Mohamud Abdi Jama, editor of independent Waheen newspaper., who was also fined to pay 6 million Somaliland shillings (US$900).

On Saturday, 22 January 2011, the judge of the court, Ali Sudi Dirie, found Jama guilty of defaming Somaliland police chief and director of Somaliland Electricity Agency for “defamation and spread of false news”. The basis for the charges was articles by the journalist on the newspaper about alleged reports of “nepotism” in Electricity Agency and the police.

“We condemn Jama’s sentence and call on the court of appeals to overturn the judgment. This verdict is out of the step and could only be taken an attempt to silence and intimidate the independent press,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

Jama who was immediately taken into central prison of Hargeisa was denied the right to bail and the intention of his media house to pay to avoid imprisonment. The journalist’s lawyer will take the case to the appellate court to hear the appeal against this ruling.

NUSOJ is, in addition, tremendously disturbed by the 5 legal cases against the independent press in Somaliland on charges of "defamation and slander" which were levelled against Saxafi, Hargeisa Star, Ogaal and Yool newspapers by the Somaliland prosecutor. Hargeisa regional court is expected to hear these cases and review evidences.

“The independent print media is subjected to pressure tactics for freely exercising journalism. We demand all these charges to be dropped immediately and unconditionally,” added Omar Faruk, who stated that the continuation of these legal harassments will only “constitute a blow to Somaliland’s emerging democracy”.

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