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NUSOJ Denounces Unprecedented Military Trial of Journalist Mohamed Abdi Sheikh as a Brazen Attack on Press Freedom in Somaliland

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) strongly condemns the unprecedented act of bringing journalist Mohamed Abdi Sheikh (commonly known as Mohamed Ilig), CEO of MM Somali TV, before a military court by Somaliland intelligence services, which represents a blatant attempt to stifle independent journalism in Somaliland.

In a shocking violation of due process, Mohamed Abdi Sheikh was brought before Somaliland's military court without legal representation or the presence of his family. The military court remanded him and granted an indefinite detention period, highlighting the abuse of power by Somaliland authorities to suppress press freedom and curtail public access to information.

Today's military trial is an unprecedented event in Somaliland's history, representing the first instance where a journalist faces such judicial proceedings. Military courts are notorious for their lack of transparency, independence and fairness compared to civilian courts, posing a grave threat to fundamental human rights. There is simply no justification for subjecting an innocent journalist to such a trial.

NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman stated, “We vehemently reject the decision to subject our colleague Mohamed Abdi Sheikh to a military trial. This reprehensible act showcases the Somaliland administration's desperation to silence independent journalists who are merely fulfilling their professional duties with freedom and independence.”

“Today's trial of a professional journalist in a military court is a departure from democratic norms, unjustly treating Mohamed Abdi Sheikh as a security threat and shattering any semblance of democracy in Somaliland. The government's pursuit of control over independent media suppresses the cardinal role of journalists in facilitating citizens' fundamental right to know,” added Osman.

NUSOJ reiterates its unequivocal demand for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Mohamed Abdi Sheikh and insists that the fabricated charges and predetermined sentence be dropped. And The union commits to leaving no stone unturned and campaigning tirelessly for the freedom of Mohamed Ilig, who is facing the most unjust persecution ever endured by a journalist in Somaliland.

On January 6, 2024, journalist Mohamed Abdi Sheikh was forcibly arrested while MM Somali TV was hosting a crucial debate on X (formerly Twitter) space regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Ethiopia and Somaliland on January 1, 2024. While the two other journalists who were arrested alongside Mohamed Ilig were released without charges, he was further detained and subjected to torture in an attempt to force false confessions.

This MOU has triggered widespread public outrage and backlash against the Somaliland administration, which is now resorting to extreme measures such as attacking the media, destroying and confiscating media equipment, arbitrarily arresting journalists, subjecting a journalist to a military court trial, stifling dissent and denying people their fundamental right to freedom of expression.