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Journalists sentenced, website banned in Somaliland

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is appalled by the latest wave in Somaliland's ongoing crackdown on the media after a court sentence against journalists in Berbera and a ban on a news website.

On 23 August 2009, the Sahil regional court found Yasin Jama Ali, a reporter and stringer for http://berberanews.com and Horyaal radio respectively, and Mohamed Said Abdullahi, the editor-in chief of berberanews.com, guilty of committing a "crime against the Somaliland nation."

Judge Osman Ibrahim read a letter stating that berberanews.com published articles spreading scandals against the governor of the Sahil region, the mayor of Berbera, the director of the Berbera Seaport and other government officials, without specifying the nature of the (said) scandals.

Before announcing the verdict, the judge asked Yasin Jama Ali about the allegations, which were all denied by the reporter. However, the court sentenced Mohamed Said Abdullahi to three years in prison and banned Yasin Jama Ali from practicing journalism until further notice from the court. The verdict also banned berberanews.com from operating in Somaliland for an indefinite period of time.

The judge ordered the police to arrest Mohamed Said Abdullahi, who was convicted in absentia, and to arrest Yasin Jama Ali if they see him doing media work, although he was freed by the court. Mohamed Said Abdullahi is in hiding.

"This is a clear persecution of journalists for simply performing their journalistic work. Somaliland authorities are evidently continuing the crackdown against media professionals which resulted in a sharp decline of press freedom in Somaliland," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

NUSOJ regards the current attacks on journalists and media organisations in Somaliland as serious threats to freedom of the media in Somaliland and as blatant violations of international standards for free expression.

NUSOJ calls on the Somaliland authorities to overturn this court decision as well as previous court decisions against the media and cease all prosecution of journalists in response to their media work.
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