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Trumped-up charges levelled against journalist for reporting rape case

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Southwest government has today pressed criminal charges against journalist Mukhtar Mohamed Atosh, VOA reporter, after arresting him yesterday in Baidoa’s city centre, holding him at the Crimes Investigation Department (CID) last night and transferred him today to Baidoa Central Prison.

According to the charge sheet, the Southwest authorities took Mukhtar Mohamed Atosh to Bay Regional Court where he was officially charged under Somalia’s outdated penal code and prosecutors requested the court to transfer him to central prison for further detention, which the court granted abruptly without even hearing the defendant.

Charges levelled against Mukhtar Mohamed Atosh, who is also member of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), are:

  1. Penal Code Article 271: Offence against the authorities by means of Damaging information
  2. Penal Code Article 326: Intimidation of the Public
  3. Penal Code Article 327: Giving False Alarm to Authorities
  4. Penal Code Article 328: Publication or circulation of false, exaggerated or tendentious news of capable of disturbing public order

“Producing him in court without a lawyer, refusing him to defend himself and swiftly transferring him to the notorious central prison of Baidoa is a mockery as the trumped-up charges brought against him are noticeably politically motivated. The charges must be dropped and Atosh immediately and unconditionally freed. He must not be put through one more day of this kangaroo court brought against him solely for doing his journalistic work,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

Mukhtar Mohamed Atosh is a well-respected broadcast journalist whose journalistic work has shed light on the workings of Southwest administration such as covering up uncomfortable truth of a rape case.

“The disgraceful fabricated charges against Mukhtar Atosh indicate how the judiciary is ready to rubber stamp the will of political office bearers and the level of intolerance of the Southwest administration for independent practice of journalism,” added Osman.