MOGADISHU, Somalia 10 June, 2020 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) call for Somali Attorney General and Somali President’s Office to drop their charges against Goobjoog Media Group’s deputy director, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye after nearly two months since he was released on bail on 18 April, 2020 as we welcome the freedom of SAAB TV journalist in Hargeisa on Tuesday 09 June, 2020.
Gurbiye was arrested on 14 April 2020 a day after he wrote on his Facebook that “Somali president had taken away a donated ventilator” from a local hospital amid Covid-19 pandemic. He was charged with article 220 of the Somali Penal Code which states “offending the honour or prestige of the head of the state”. Following his release, Mr. Gurbiye has been banned from writing about Covid-19 and any thing critical on the government making him impossible to practice his profession under the bail.
“It is now almost two months and journalist Abdiaziz Gurbiye is not able to exercise his journalism,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “We call for the Office of Somali President and the Office of the Attorney General to drop their charges against Mr. Gurbiye and allow him to resume his journalism work without fear of persecution.”
In the aftermath of journalist Gurbiye’s arrest and following series of attacks and threats against journalists for covering Covid-19, independent journalists and media houses in Somalia are unwilling to cover Covid-19 or have resorted to self-censorship for fear of arrest or persecution.
“On May 3, Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo stated that journalists should not be used in the future with the outdated Somali penal code. With that being officially said by the president, Goobjoog journalist Gurbiye remains to be a victim of such outdated law and is charged with the Penal Code on behalf of the Somali president,” Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said.
SOMA and SJS jointly call for the Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo to instruct the Attorney General to withdraw the charges against Gurbiye in the respect to the president’s statement issued on May 3. Separately, SOMA and SJS welcomed the release of the privately owned independent SAAB TV journalist Ali Fahad Jama, who was detained after reporting a road accident involving a police vehicle in Hargeisa on Monday 08 June.
According to Ali Fahad who spoke to SJS today he was released on the morning of Tuesday 09 June after spending one night in the police detention. He was not charged. Meanwhile Radio Hiigsi editor, Mohamed Abduwahaab Nuur (Abuuja) had on Sunday 07 June appeared before the military tribunal and was transferred to Mogadishu central prison after the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) held him incommunicado for three months. The journalist is yet to be charged but SOMA and SJS have hired two lawyers to defend him before the court of the law once his case is brought to the court.