Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the surreal, trumped-up charges that a court in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, brought on 9 May against three journalists who have been held since 13 April in connection with their coverage of a prison riot.
Mohamed Abdi Mohamed of MM Somali TV, Abdijabar Mohamed Hussein of HornCable TV and Abdirahman Ali Khalif of Gobonnimo TV were charged with “subversive propaganda” and spreading “false, exaggerated and tendentious information liable to disturb public order.” Another hearing in the case is to be held on 14 May.
Somaliland is a self-proclaimed independent republic in northwestern Somalia that is not recognised by the international community.
“The charges brought against these journalists are surreal,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “A total of 15 journalists covered what happened at the prison that day. The authorities themselves acknowledged these events. There are absolutely no grounds for detaining these reporters, who just did their work. We call for their immediate release.”
Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), RSF’s partner organisation, said in a statement: “The aim is to punish the journalists under the obsolete and oppressive penal code for just performing their journalistic work freely and independently.”
The Somaliland authorities arrested a total of 15 journalists in a massive round-up in Hargeisa on 13 April after they covered clashes between prisoners and guards in the city’s main prison. While most of them were released a few days later, the three journalists have since remained unjustly imprisoned.