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Journalist Jama Ayanle Feyte sentenced to two years in prison for libel and dissemination of false information

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is shocked to learn of the severe two-year prison sentence handed down to journalist Jama Ayanle Feyte on 30 March 2009

Bari regional court in Bossasso convicted Jama Ayanle Feyte for libel and insult of Puntland leaders and dissemination of false information on the Somali news websites http://www.dayniile.com and http://www.laasqoray.net

Ayanle, who works for the news website www.laasqoray.net, was arrested by Puntland police in Bossasso on 26 March on the orders of the deputy police commissioner, Mohamed Said Jaqanaf. The deputy police commissioner informed the journalist on his arrest that he was being charged with publishing false information, but did not specify what the alleged false information was.

Puntland's minister and deputy minister of information told NUSOJ that they were informed neither of the arrest nor of the allegations against the journalist, and that a request to act as a surety against his release was refused. A source told NUSOJ that Interior Minister Abullahi Jama Ilkajir was involved in the case, having complained to the police about Ayanle's reports.

Ayanle maintains his innocence and denies all the allegations against him. He was not allowed to have a solicitor and his family members and colleagues were barred from the courtroom.

"Today's verdict is an absolute criminalisation of journalism and a silencing of independent voices in the northeast regions of Somalia, and the judgement accentuates the frightening violation of press freedom in these regions," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "This is a completely unjust and politicised ruling," he added.

"This conviction is a gross violation of press freedom and Puntland must stop prosecuting journalists and news media outlets," declared Faruk, adding, "Jama did not get a fair trial. We need these baseless allegations and this unjust verdict to be dropped immediately and Puntland authorities to allow him carry out his work without fear.

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