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"High treason" charges faced by journalists punishable by death in Somalia

Journalists at the Shabelle radio station hold a meeting in Mogadishu, 30 January 2012
Journalists at the Shabelle radio station hold a meeting in Mogadishu, 30 January 2012

AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has condemned Somali authorities for superciliously charging three journalists working for a leading independent media network with high treason and other irrational charges.

In a hearing at Banadir Regional Court in Mogadishu on 4 September 2014, the office of the Attorney General officially charged three journalists from Shabelle Media Network, as read out by deputy attorney general Mohammed Hassan.

Abdimalik Yusuf, chairman of Shabelle Media Network, Mohamud Mohamed Dahir (Arab), director of SkyFM and Ahmed Abdi Hassan, deputy editor of Radio Shabelle were in the courtroom, charged of violating articles 184, 220, 231, 320, 321 and 328 of Somali Penal code.

For Article 184, the journalists are accused of “attack on the integrity, independence or the unity of the Somali State”. It is “highest treason”, which is punishable by death, according to the penal code.

The journalists were also accused of “offense against the honour and prestige of the Head of State” under article 220, in this case an “offence” against President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

The other four charges are:

1. Public incitement (Article 231 Penal Code)
2. Incitement to commit a crime (Article 320 of Penal Code)
3. Incitement to disobey the law (Article 321 of Penal Code)
4. Publication or dissemination of false, exaggerated or misleading information, likely to disturb public order

(Article 328 of Penal Code)

"We deplore the absurd charges pressed against three journalists of Shabelle Media Network," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We feel that these ridiculous charges, along with other press freedom violations in the past few weeks, constitute an organized campaign to stifle independent journalism in Mogadishu."

NUSOJ calls on Somali authorities to release the three journalists and drop all these trumped-up charges against them, and stop abusing the law to silence independent media community in the country.

The three journalists have been in National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) prison since they were arrested from their premises in the morning hours of 15 August 2014.

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