The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has strongly condemned a court verdict against independent journalist Abdimalik Muse Oldon in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa who was today sentenced to two (2) years of prison.
Arrested on 15 February upon arrival at Hargeisa Airport, Abdilmalik Musse Oldon was formally charged under Somalia’s old penal code of 1960, particularly under Article 212 on “ant-national activity of a citizen abroad”, article 328 on “publication or circulation of false, exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing public order” and Article 220 on “offending the honour or prestige of the head of state”.
“This is a brutal, outrageous decision, which is flagrant violation of free expression. We condemn this harsh and unacceptable sentence which takes media repression in Somaliland to record levels. We shall support our colleagues in Somaliland and Abdilmalik Musse Oldon in their efforts to have this verdict overturned,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
Hargeisa’s Marodi Jeeh Regional Court heard on 4-5 April 2017 the arguments between prosecutor and attorneys defending Oldon. The main accusations leveled against Oldon included comments he allegedly made on the social media against Somaliland president and Oldon’s support to President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo. The sole evidence that Somaliland prosecutor presented to the court is a videotape in which Oldon sympathetically talks about President Farmaajo, without talking about Somaliland.
Chairman of Marodi Jeeh Regional Court, judge Ahmed Dalmar Ismail, this morning found Oldon guilty of breaching articles 212 and 328 of penal code, and discharged government’s allegation that the journalist had broken article 220. Judge Ismail sentenced Oldon to two years of jail.
NUSOJ today emphasized, once again, the flagrant abuse of Somalia’s old, vaguely worded, draconian penal code to silence journalists and curtail freedom of expression of citizens by political leaders. So far 19 journalists were charged under this penal code in the past 3 years.
“Clearly we see criminalization of freedom of expression by using this penal code and manipulating the justice system. This is both dangerous and absurd” added Osman.