MOGADISHU, Somalia 7 July, 2020 – Somali Media Association (SOMA) and Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) jointly call for the Office of the Attorney General (AG) of the Federal Government of Somalia to drop charges against Goobjoog Editor, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye who appeared today before the Banadir Regional Court after he was was pressed with unlawful criminal charges issued on 23 June by the Office of the Attorney General through the Banadir Regional Court.
SJS and SOMA secured lawyers to defend Mr. Gurbiye before the court of law as the first hearing of the case took place today on 7 July, where representatives from SJS, SOMA, Goobjoog Media Group and journalists attended. The court was adjourned after the defending lawyers opposed the criminal charges brought by the Attorney General’s office and also questioned the court’s jurisdiction to handle, as there were no victims to be mentioned in the case.
Mr. Gurbiye was first arrested and charged with Article 220 of the Penal Code on 14 April a day after he wrote a Facebook post alleging, “the Somali president had taken away a donated ventilator” from a local hospital which treats Covid-19 patients. He was released on bail on 18 April. But the Attorney General changed the charges, according to a document seen by SJS and SOMA.
In the new charge sheet dated on 23 June, the court summoned Mr. Gurbiye on articles of 328; publishing false news and 269; offending the prestige of public and political administration. These vague offenses are found in the outdated Somali Penal Code to restrict the freedom of speech and the media.
“We opposed the criminalisation of journalism because our client, Mr. Gurbiye has been exercising journalism which is not a crime and the criminal code can not be used for cases related to journalism,” Dahir Mohamed Ali, the lead lawyer of the defence team said “We have also challenged the court’s jurisdiction and the validity of the charges as we have not been informed who is pressing the charges against our client.”
During a press conference at the courthouse, SJS Secretary General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, SOMA Secretary General, Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi reinforced the defense lawyers’ argument and also called the Federal Government’s Attorney General to stop the charges against Mr. Gurbiye. Both Mumin and Abdullahi also expressed their concern the several changes made in the previous charge sheet when the journalist was first arrested in April.
“While we emphasise the defence lawyers’ point of argument, we are, however, extremely concerned by the fact that the articles mentioned in the previous charge sheet in April were changed. We also condemn the attempts of intimidations and threats involving in this case,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of SJS said.
“We strongly oppose any criminal charges against journalist Gurbiye and therefore we call for the Attorney General to immediately drop these charges against Gurbiye and stop the judicial harassment aimed to intimidate and silence the independent media and the journalists,” Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the Secretary General of SOMA said.
The Director of Goobjoog Media, Hassan Mohamed Mohamud thanked SJS and SOMA for the legal defence support and solidarity to their journalist Gurbiye amid in this critical time of Covid-19.
“I thank SJS and SOMA for the outstanding support- not only the legal defence support but also their solidarity and commitment to defend the endangered journalists such as Gurbiye,” the Director of Goobjoog Media, Hassan Mohamed Mohamud said