The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) today condemned in the strongest terms possible the high handed sentences slammed on two journalists by a Hargeisa Court in Somaliland. Journalist Hassan Hussein Abdullahi, also known as Keefkeef, was sentenced to two-years in prison and fined two million Somaliland shilling, while journalist Mohamed Ahmed Jama, received a one year jail sentence and a fine of one million Somaliland shillings.
According to National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), a FAJ affiliate, “Hassan Hussein Abdullahi and Mohamed Ahmed Jama, editor-in-chief and director of Hubaal newspaper respectively, were officially indicted by the Hargeisa regional administration’s Attorney General, Farhan Mire Osman on 17 June, 2013. The Hubaal journalists were charged with two counts, namely “falsification, publication of false news and defamation in violation of provisions of the Criminal Law Media Law of 2004 and secondly, propagating false information and defamation against national leader and his leadership policies. ”
“The high handed sentences and fines meted out to our colleagues in Somaliland is nothing but naked aggression and a calculated attempt to intimidate and harass journalists” said Mohammed Garba, President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ). “These sentences are too harsh and negate the clarion call for the decriminalisation of libel and all insult laws in relation to the promotion of freedom of expression and most especially the freedom of the press”, he added.
In a statement issued by NUSOJ, the “presiding judge of the Hargeisa Regional Court, Osman Ibrahim Dahir, announced that the two journalists were found guilty of all charges. The judge added that Hassan and Mohamed were guilty of scandalizing a diplomatic mission and the President of Somaliland. However, the defence lawyers had strongly refuted the verdict as a “miscarriage of justice” and had vowed to make an appeal.
It could be recalled that On 11 June, 2013, the Hargeisa Regional court ordered the Hubal Media Group to close down its operations with immediate effect without giving reasons for the action thus affecting both the daily Somali language (Hubal) and weekly English language (independent) newspapers, which are both published by Hubaal Media Group.
FAJ calls on the authorities in Somaliland to do everything possible to revert the decision of the court and to release the journalists immediately and unconditionally. “Freedom of Expression and the freedom of the press in particular are very critical components of democracy and good governance which should be upheld by all states in the interest of their citizens. Journalists should be allowed to do their work of informing and educating the general citizenry under a conducive environment, as enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human and People’s Rights and other international conventions” Garba recommended.
FAJ represents more than 50.000 journalists in 40 countries in Africa