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"Ogaal" newspaper reporter sentenced to one year in prison

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - On 26 April 2009, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemned the increasing tendency to intimidate journalists in Somaliland after a court sentenced journalist Abdullahi Hassan Darwish of "Ogaal" newspaper to one year in prison. He was also banned from working as a journalist for six-months and given a fine of 400 000 Somaliland shillings (approx. US$60).

Sanaag Regional Court in Erigabo, which passed this judgment on 25 April 2009, found the journalist guilty of spreading "unsubstantiated information" about corruption in the management of the water agency in Erigabo and the political use of the agency by Ismail Haji Nur, the mayor of Erigabo.

The family and relatives of Darwish, who is also stringer for the Qaran News website, paid to exchange the one-year jail sentence for a release on 26 April 2009. The journalist was arrested on 14 April after a complaint from Ismail Haji Nur.

In court, Darwish did not have a lawyer. In what seemed like an act of intimidation, the judge reportedly asked the journalist for proof of his journalistic qualifications so that he could identify him as a journalist.

"Authorities in Somaliland have been sending dangerous signals that whoever reports independently on critical issues such as corruption will pay a heavy price," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "Somaliland must end this tendency of intimidating journalists for baseless allegations and allow them to do their job (. . .)."

In another case, Mohamed Abdi Urad, editor of the "Yool" weekly newspaper, was arrested by police on 27 February in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. He was sentenced to five months in jail. In court, Urad was charged with operating an "illegal newspaper" and "publishing false reports".

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