A court in Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia, has sentenced two journalists to three years in prison after convicting them of making false accusations and defaming government ministers.
Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, chairman of the Haatuf Media Network, and Ahmed Ali Egeh, editor-in-chief of independent daily newspaper Haatuf were also fined the equivalent of $4,000 June 25 by a court in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, according to Sabahi, an East African news service sponsored by the U.S. Defense Department.
Both convictions stem from the editors’ involvement in Haatuf Media Network’s publication of a series investigating government corruption involving the interior and energy ministers, according to Reporters Without Borders, a France-based press freedom group.
The court revoked the publishing licenses for Haatuf and its weekly newspaper, the Somaliland Times. Police ordered three telecommunication companies to block access to Haatuf’s and the Somaliand Times’ news websites. Haatuf has been closed following a police raid April 7, reported the National Union of Somali Journalists.
The group said the prosecution was based on Somalia’s penal code, implemented during the military dictatorship of Siad Barre, rather than Somaliland’s own media law. After Barre’s overthrow in Mogadishu in 1991, Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia, though it has yet to be recognized as independent by any other country.
“We find it uncalled for that journalists will be criminalized by writing about Somaliland officials,” said Omar Faruk Osman, secretary general of NUSOJ. “It is pure and simple harassment.”