Somaliland: IFJ condemns "flagrant violation" following journalist's jail sentence

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today joined its affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), in condemning the 2-year jail sentence imposed by a Somali court on a journalist on 8th April. Independent reporter Abdimalik Muse Oldon was arrested on 15th February upon arrival at the capital Hargeisa's airport over comments he allegedly made on social media against Somaliland's President and a video showing his "support" for the Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo. Last Friday, judge Ahmed Dalmar Ismail, Chairman of Marodi Jeeh Regional Court, found Oldon guilty of breaching articles 212 and 328 of Somalia's 1960 penal code concerning "anti-national activity of a citizen abroad" and "publication or circulation of false, exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing public order". The judge rejected the government's allegation that the journalist had broken article 220 on "offending the honour or prestige of the head of state" and sentenced Oldon to two years in jail. NUSOJ condemned the "brutal, outrageous decision, which is a flagrant violation of press freedom", according to the union's General Secretary, Omar Faruk Osman. "We condemn this harsh and unacceptable sentence which takes media repression in Somaliland to record levels. Clearly we see criminalization of freedom of expression by the use of this penal code and manipulating the justice system. This is both dangerous and absurd," he added. The IFJ joined NUSOJ in condemning the flagrant abuse by political leaders of Somalia's vaguely worded and draconian penal code to silence journalists and curtail freedom of expression of citizens. “It is beyond belief that a journalist is sentenced to jail allegedly over comments on social media and simple video footage. Journalists are rightly angry over this shocking injustice,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “It is evident that Abdimalik Muse Oldon is being victimised by local authorities who are trying to stifle free speech and independent voices in the media through the judiciary. Such verdict which is an attack on fundamental liberties of journalists and free expression must not be allowed to stand.” NUSOJ recalled that 19 journalists have been charged under this penal code in the past 3 years.

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