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NUSOJ welcomes release of jailed journalists, calls on Somaliland authorities to stop persecuting journalists under defective and archaic law

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) welcomes release of journalists Mohamed Abdi Sheik and Abdijibar Mohamed Hussein from Hargeisa Central Prison, after spending nearly three months in custody.

The release of the two journalists, which took place on Saturday 2 July 2022, follows a presidential pardon granted to them by Somaliland President Musa Bihi Abdi for showing clemency to the incarcerated journalists after national and international outcry over their continued detention.

Mohamed Abdi Sheik of MM Somali TV and Abdijibar Mohamed Hussein of HornCable TV were convicted each and sentenced to serve 16-month jail terms on 23 May 2022. NUSOJ has always maintained that the two journalists were wrongly jailed based on trumped-up charges and were prosecuted using defective and archaic provisions of the Penal Code.

In this regard, NUSOJ calls upon the authorities in Somaliland to suspend all provisions of the Penal Code the authorities have been abusing to the detriment of journalists. NUSOJ also demands for a judicial review to remove from the penal code all archaic provisions that are in conflict with international freedom of expression standards. The two journalists should never have been arrested, let alone subjecting them to unjustified incarceration.

“While we welcome the return to freedom of our colleagues and commend Somaliland President Musa Bihi Abdi for making the right decision by ending the unjustified detention of the journalists, we invite him to take further steps to ensure that no journalist is harassed, arrested and jailed for doing their journalistic job in Somaliland,” said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman.

“Right from the start, NUSOJ contested the charges on which the conviction was based. We still hold the view that these charges were politically motivated, aimed at suppressing the truth and denying citizens their right to know and hold opinion about the state of affairs in their communities. We call upon President Musa Bihi Abdi to take further steps and suspend all provisions in the Penal Code that give the authorities unbridled powers to criminalise journalism. Also, a judicial review should be immediately constituted to clean up the penal code to ensure it is in rhyme with the international standards of freedom of expression,” Osman added.

The release of the journalists shows that the politically instigated charges levelled against them had no basis in law and were not backed up by any iota of evidence, and the union provided the support the journalists needed.

The Presidential pardon was granted after NUSOJ and 6 media freedom organisations mounted a vigorous campaign that included sending a joint petition to the President of Somaliland on 31 May 2022 to have the two imprisoned journalists released unconditionally.

NUSOJ thanks the media freedom advocacy organisations who stood in solidarity with the two journalists particularly the African Editors’ Forum (TAEF); Reporters Without Borders (RSF); Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ); Uganda Journalists Union (UJU); Federation of African Journalists (FAJ); and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).