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Shabelle Media Network journalists on hunger strike to protest imprisonment, charges

Four journalists of the Shabelle Media Network, who are currently detained, started a hunger strike on 29 September 2014 to demand their freedom and for the charges levelled against them to be dropped. The journalists are also protesting the conditions of their detention.

Abdimalik Yusuf, chairman of Shabelle Media Network, Mohamud Mohamed Dahir (Arab), director of SkyFM, Ahmed Abdi Hassan, deputy editor of Radio Shabelle, and Mohamed Bashir Hashi, editor of Radio Shabelle are currently detailed at Mogadishu's central prison.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is concerned at the on-going detention of the four journalists, and believes that the four journalists' detention is directly related to their media work.

The four journalists have reportedly complained about poor conditions at the prison and health problems, as they were reportedly tortured for confession while interrogated at the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).

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 charged of violating articles 184, 220, 231, 320, 321 and 328 of Somali Penal code. Mohamed Bashir Hashi was later arrested, interrogated at NISA and was also levelled with similar charges.

The harshest charge is the one of Article 184, which accuses the journalists for “attacking 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.

“We have grave concerns for the well-being of four Shabelle Media Network journalists, who began a hunger strike today to protest their detention, charges against them and poor conditions they are detained” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

NUSOJ urges the federal government to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release all four journalists of the Shabelle Media Network, as the union believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate media work and their right to free speech.

2. Ensure that the treatment of journalists, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the "Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment", adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988.

3. Provide the necessary medical treatment for the four journalists who were reportedly tortured while interrogated.

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