The IPI global network calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Somaliland journalists Mohamed Adbi Sheikh Mohamed of MM Somali TV and Adijabar Mohamed Hussein of Horncable. The two journalists were sentenced to 16-month prison terms on May 23 by a court in Hargeisa for reporting on a prison fight at Hargeisa Central Prison.
On April 13, 2022, Mohamed and Hussein were among 15 journalists arrested and detained for reporting on a prison fight at Hargeisa Central Prison in the capital of Somaliland, a self-governing but unrecognized state. On April 19, 12 of the journalists were released but Mohamed, Hussein, and Abdirahman Ali Khalif of Gobonimo TV remained in detention. In court proceedings on May 23, 2022, Khalif was acquitted while Mohamed and Hussein were sentenced to 16 months each in prison.
The court found the duo guilty of the ‘’publication of false news’’ under Section 215 of the Somaliland Penal Code which covers “Subversive or Anti-National Propaganda” and Section 328 of the same code on “Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated, or Tendentious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order”.
The basis upon which the two journalists were charged and eventually sentenced remains unclear. In a statement, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, secretary-general of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), said the case intends to “cause fear and send a chilling signal to the journalists’ community”. The Human Rights Center in Somaliland said “the actions taken by the journalists do not reflect the crime they are allegedly accused of” and “the judgment far exceeds the scope of their actions while at that prison where the reporting took place”.
“Authorities in Somaliland should release Mohamed and Hussein immediately and refrain from using the law to silence critical journalism”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “The role of independent media is essential to democracy. The Somaliland government must ensure press freedom, and allow journalists to do their work without fear of legal harassment.”
These latest imprisonments of journalists follow several cases this year where different courts in Somaliland sentenced journalists to prison. On March 28, Ahmed Jama Hersi was sentenced to one year in prison after he was arrested over a critical publication on Facebook. Abdimalik Muse Coldon was handed a two-year jail sentence on May 23 for propaganda- and insult-related offences.