Nairobi — The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the conviction and prison sentence handed down today against a Somali freelance journalist charged with insulting the government by interviewing a woman who said she was raped by government forces. CPJ calls for the sentence to be overturned and for reporter Abdiaziz Abdinuur to be released immediately pending appeal.
The Bernadir Regional Court in Mogadishu sentenced Abdiaziz to one year in prison on charges of insulting the government and making false accusations, according to local journalists and news reports. Abdiaziz was sent to the central prison in Mogadishu. The woman whom Abdiaziz had interviewed was also sentenced to a year in prison on the same insult charge, while three other defendants, including the alleged victim's husband, were released, news reports said.
Local journalists who attended the trial said the judge did not allow the defense to present several witnesses and that the prosecution had failed to provide relevant evidence. Senior government officials, including the interior minister, made repeated public comments asserting that Abdiaziz was guilty.
Abdiaziz's defense plans to appeal the ruling, local journalists told CPJ.
"While President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud tries to portray his government as committed to human rights and reform, it is jailing a reporter for listening to a woman who said government forces had victimized her," said CPJ's East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "Prosecutors call this an insult, which reflects a government that puts itself above its citizens. We call on authorities to denounce this miscarriage of justice, vacate the verdict, and free Abdiaziz Abdinuur immediately."
Abdiaziz was arrested on January 10 in connection with a January 8 interview he conducted with a woman who said she was raped by government soldiers last year. Abdiaziz did not publish the story. He was held for 19 days without charge and with limited access to a lawyer, according to local journalists.
Abdiaziz has contributed to several news outlets including Dalsan Radio, Badri Media Productions, Radio Ergo, and the U.K.-based Daily Telegraph.
For more data and analysis on Somalia, visit CPJ's Somalia page here.