|Omar Faruk Osman SG NUSOJ|
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) expresses its deepest concern over continuing legal cases against journalists and media outlets in Somalia after a regional Court ruled against an editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper over defamation charge.
On Saturday, 30 April, Hargeisa Regional Court announced its verdict of defamation case filed by Somaliland Civil Aviation and Air Transport Minister Mohamed Hashi Abdi in January 2011 against editor-in-chief of Saxafi newspaper Abdifatah Mohamud Aidid.
Aidid was charged for defamation by the Somaliland prosecution because of a December 2010 publication by Saxafi daily newspaper which reportedly cited “mishandling” of $10 million donation from Government of Kuwait by the Civil Aviation and Air Transport Minister. This donation was seemingly meant for refurbishment of Hargeisa and Berbera airports.
Somaliland Prosecutor Adan Salad Sed, who was representing the Minister in this legal case, requested the court to convict the journalist under article 287 of Penal Code which orders imprisonment for a period determined by a judge.
Journalist Aidid was convicted of offending name and reputation of Minister Mohamed Hashi Abdi, and was, as a consequence, ordered to pay a fine of 6,000,000 Somaliland Shillings which is equivalent of $1000 USD. The court, which obliged the journalist to pay this fine in 30 days from the day of the court decision, also warned that the newspaper that its licence will be revoke should the paper repeats same defamation against the Minister.
NUSOJ condemns this verdict which demonstrates the severe and constant violation of freedom of expression and of the press in Somaliland. “We believe Abdifatah Mohamud Aidid and Saxafi newspaper are targeted and prosecuted with the only aim to curb their freedom of the press. We therefore appeal to the Somaliland authorities to drop the charges against them,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
Hargeisa regional court judge Said Yusuf Indho’ad rejected the Prosecutor’s request to convict the journalist under article 287 of penal code. But the judge informed the journalist, in the case he fails to pay the fine in 30 days, the editor faces imprisonment.
After the announcement of the court ruling, Prosecutor Sed was reported of furiously reacting and vowing to take an appeal against the verdict in order to get the journalist convicted under article 287 of penal code. Lawyers defending the journalist also stated that they will take an appeal against this verdict.
“This present case is an example of the use of the criminal defamation in Somaliland against media houses and journalists. These recurring legal cases are clearly intended to hinder the work of the independent press in Somaliland,” added Omar.
NUSOJ believes that the rights of defence of journalists who are having legal battles with Somaliland ministers and other public officials are not guaranteed and the basic standards for a fair trail are not met. “We strongly urge the authorities of Somaliland to guarantee the protection of journalists who face retaliations from public officials because of their exercise of the right to freedom of the press,” declared Omar.