A newspaper editor in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland has been sentenced to three years in prison because of his written story alleging public corruption.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the prison sentence by Judge Ali Sudi Diriye who presided the regional court in Hargeisa.
Mohamud Abdi Jama, the editor of the private daily Waheen,is guilty on charges of defamation and “spreading false news,” local journalists told CPJ. The judge who issued the ruling on Saturday also fined Jama six million shillings (US$900).
Diriye denied bail for Jama and sent him to Hargeisa Central Prison, defense lawyer Mohamud Osman told CPJ. Osman says he plans to appeal the verdict to the Somaliland Supreme Court.
The charges against Mohamud Abdi Jama came after he published a story in 2010, accusing a state electricity company manager of hiring more than 50 employees from his own clan. Waheen, part of the Waheen Media Group, is known for its critical coverage of the government
Journalists with four other newspapers – Saxafi, Hargeisa Star, Ogaal, and Yool also face pending criminal defamation charges brought by the state prosecutor. Local journalists told CPJ they fear the administration of President Mohamed Silyano has reneged on its 2010 election campaign promises to allow independent news media to work without reprisal.
“Throwing journalists into prison defies the administration’s promises to support a free press and embrace accountability and transparency,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “CPJ urges the Supreme Court to reverse the conviction of Mohamud Abdi Jama on appeal.”
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.