Somali Court Sentences Journalists to Pay Fine Money to win their Freedom Back
Mogadishu, March 1, 2015
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) welcomes today’s court verdict against the journalists to pay fines in return for their freedom, but voiced the chilling effect such heavy fines could have to the press freedom and freedom of expression in the country and urged the regional court to review the decision.
After several times of delays, finally Banadir Regional Court today starting hearing the cases of five journalists working for Risaala, Shabelle and SKY FM. The hearing started around 12:15 and lasted 3:00pm local time. The journalists were denied to cover the hearing. The union officials representing the journalists were allowed.
The charges against the journalists range from Publication of false news to high treason, but will detail below:
Mohamed Mohamoud Dahir, Director of SKY FM, Ahmed Abdi Hassan, Editor of Shabelle who were arrested on 15 August 2014 and Mohamed Abdi Ali, reporter for Risaaa Radio, who was detained on January 3, 2014, were charged of 328 of the Somali Penal code respectively and reads as follows:
Art: 328. (Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated or Tendentious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order).
Whoever publishes or circulates false, exaggerated or tendentious news so as to disturb public order shall be punished, where the act does not consti¬tute a more serious offence [15 P.c.], with imprisonment [96 P.C.] up to six months or with fine [97 P.C.] up to Sh. So. 3,000.
Whereas, Abdimaalik Yusuf Mohamed, Chairman of Shabelle and SKY FM radio was charged with Articles 320-321 of the Somali Penal code and reads as follows:
Articles 320 – Instigation to Delinquency – To publicly incite another to commit one or more offenses.
Art. 321. (Instigation to Disobey the Laws). –
Whoever publicly incites another to disobey the laws relating to public order, or stir up ha¬tred between the social classes, shall be punished with imprisonment [96P.C.] from six months to five years, from three to seven years.
The defense lawyers, Tahlil Haji Ahmed and Abdikarim Mohamed Ahmed, among other defense lawyers, commitment in the defense of the citizen’s right to know and the right to freedom of expression, citing constitutional articles among others. Both lawyers are dedicated Press freedom and Human Rights defenders who are defending the journalists for free.
“ Criminalizing and arresting journalists, paralyzing their work and keeping them in prison or in remand for 6 months is not acceptable .” the defense lawyers wrote to NUSOJ last week , “The aim for last minute change of the indictment is to sentence the journalists to served term in remand”.
Following the court suspension of the hearing of the journalists’ cases on 15 February, 2015, the defense lawyers wrote a complaint to the Chief Justice demanding transfer of the case to another court and to nullify the sequestration of the 59 equipment’s from SKY and Shabelle radios including their vehicle.
The presiding judge, Dr. Hashi Elmi Nor called Mohamed Bashir Hashi of Shabelle and the judge read the charges in Articles 184, 221 and 434 of the Somali Penal code and reads as follows:
Art. 184. (Attempts against the Integrity, Independence or Unity of the Somali State; high treason (*). –
Whoever commits an act direct to subject the territory of the State [4 Const.] or a part thereof to the so¬vereignty of a foreign State, or to diminish the independence, or to dissolve the unity of the State [l Const.], shall be punished with death [94 P.C., 16′ Const.].
Art. 221. (Armed Insurrection against the Powers of the State}.
1. Whoever promotes an armed insurrection against the powers of the State shall be punished with imprisonment for life [95 P.c.], and, where the insurrection ensues, with death [94 P.C.].
2. Persons who participate in the insurrection shall be punished with imprisonment [96 P.C.) from three to fifteen years.
3. An insurrection shall be deemed to be an armed insurrection even though the arms [541 P.c.) are merely kept in a place of deposit.
Art. 434. (Murder). –Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death [16′ Const., 94 P.C.]. in relation with article 17 as attempt murder.
But, the hearing of this case has been postponed for a later date, following a request from the Attorney General’s office.
Finally, the presiding judge, Dr. Hashi Elmi Nor announced verdict as follows:
Abdimaalik Yusuf Mohamoud, Chairman and owner of Shabelle and SKY FM radios was sentenced to pay $10,000 in fine and the days he was imprisoned. The fine should be paid no later than Monday 10:00am. Once the payment is made, the court will provide property (equipments of the two radio stations including a car) and freedom back. Failure to do so, the court has the right to revoke his temporary freedom.
Mohamoud Mohamed Dahir known as “Carab”, director of SKY FM, was sentenced to pay $2000 in fine and the months he was in jail. Once the fine is paid, he’ll win his freedom back.
Ahmed Abdi Hassan, Editor of Shabelle, was sentenced to pay $500 in fine and the months he was in jail. Once the fine is paid, he’ll win his freedom back.
Mohamed Abdi Ali, Radio Risaala Reporter, was sentenced to pay $500 in fine and the days he was in jail. Once the fine is paid, he’ll win his freedom back.
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), while welcoming the verdict, it hinder press freedom in the country and urged the court to review its decisions.
“We honor and welcome the court’s decision,” Mohamed Ibrahim, Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ,) said after the hearing, “But, we are seriously concerned about the heavy fines, which could have negative impact to the press and urge the Benadir regional court to review the verdict.”
“The Journalists and the media should not be put in a state where either they have pay such heavy fines or leave the profession or stay behind bars.” Mr. Ibrahim said.
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) also thanks to the veteran lawyers, Tahlil Haji Ahmed and Abdikarim Mohamed Ahmed dedicated and committed Human Rights/Press Freedom Defenders and stood to defend the journalists without pay, following NUSOJ request.
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