1 March 2015

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today strongly condemned a Mogadishu court’s decisions that found radio journalists guilty of trumped charges and imposed heavy fine on leading independent media network.

At a today’s hearing at Banadir Regional Court in Mogadishu, two of four Shabelle journalists were found guilty of all charges against them. Abdimaalik Yusuf Mohamud, chairman of Shabelle Media Network, was not found guilty but Shabelle Media Network was ordered to pay US$10,000 as a fine; Ahmed Abdi Hassan, deputy editor of Radio Shabelle, was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of period (15 August – 21 October) that he was detained and ordered to pay US$500 fine; and Mohamud Mohamed Dahir (Arab), director of SkyFM, was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of period (15 August 2014 to date) that he has been detained and ordered to pay US$2,000 fine.

Shabelle Media Network was ordered to pay the fine until 10am tomorrow (2 March 2015), failure to do so the court ordered Abdimaalik Yusuf Mohamud, the head of Shabelle, to be rearrested. Ahmed Abdi Hassan was also given until 10am tomorrow to pay the fine, otherwise he will be rearrested.

Journalist Mohamed Abdi Ali of Radio Risaala, who was arrested on 3 January 2015, was also brought to court today, and was found guilty of charges leveled by attorney general office and was sentenced to imprisonment of period he has been detained and ordered to pay fine of $500.

The case against Mohamed Bashir Hashi, editor of Radio Shabelle, was also heard today and stands accused of “terrorism” and being behind the “attempted assassination” of former Member of Parliament whose car exploded. His verdict and sentence are postponed, and Hashi was returned to prison.

“We strongly condemn the conviction and the sentence against the three journalists of Radio Shabelle, Sky FM and Radio Risaale, and the heavy fine on Shabelle Media Network as gross miscarriage of justice. These decisions doom for the future of journalism and practicing journalists in our country,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “Today’s verdict further stifles media freedom because it instills fear in journalists and citizens who want to express their views.”

“From the outset of the trial, it was clear that the court always intended to deliver a guilty verdict, in what we see as a frightening indictment of the lack of media freedom in Somalia,” said Osman.

“Rather than convicted criminals, we consider our colleagues to be innocent journalists who were doing their own media work and they were denied their right to freedom of expression. The verdict must not be allowed to stand. We call on Somali authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.”

NUSOJ insists that the court has displayed a complete contempt for the most basic principles of a fair trial and has utterly destroyed its credibility. It is time for Somali’s authorities to come clean and acknowledge that the current system is neither fair nor independent or impartial, and the persecution of journalists must end.

The union shall continue its support and solidarity of Shabelle Media Network and victimized journalists, and would make every effort to publicise this injustice as well as garner solidarity for their cause.

Three times were postponed the hearing of Shabelle Media Network journalists. On 15 August 2014, Shabelle Media Network was raided, both Radio Shabelle & SkyFM were shutdown and 17 journalists and other media workers were arrested. 16 of them were released on 17 August 2014, however Abdimalik Yusuf, Ahmed Hassan and Mohamud Arab were kept in prison. On 6 September 2014, Mohamed Bashir Hashi was arrested. On 21 October, Abdimalik Yusuf and Ahmed Abdi Hassan were released on bail.

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