Journalist sentenced to prison term
2 July 2011

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today condemned the year prison sentence handed down by Puntland court to online journalist, after he was found guilty of allegedly “jeopardizing security of Puntland and publishing false news”.

Faysal Mohamed Hassan, reporterof Hiiraan Online, who was arrested on 29 June, was taken to First –Level Court today, Saturday, where journalists and family members of the journalist were present.

Acting on orders from the most senior Puntland government officials, the Prosecutor of Bari region, Bashir Mohamed Osman, officially charged Hassan and asked the court to sentence him to three years in prison on charges of “jeopardizing security of Puntland and publishing false news” in relation to articles 219 and 215 of Somali criminal code.

The two lawyers of Faysal Mohamed Hassan, 24, challenged the charge and the heavy sentence that the prosecutor asked. The journalist did not violate Puntland constitution, Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia and because of what the journalist published in the media cannot be prosecuted under the Somali criminal code, said one lawyer in the hearing.

The prosecutor stated that the charges are related to publication of news article on Hiiraan online, which reported that bodies of two slaughtered men were found in a place called Yalho, superb of Bosasso town in north-eastern part of Somalia. The Hiiraan Online publication further added that the two men are members of Puntland security forces. The prosecutor also mentioned that the journalist published “false” news which reported that people called on Puntland president to “step down”.

The chair of the court Sheik Aden Aw Ahmed hurriedly passed the sentence on Faysal Mohamed Hassan, which his lawyers immediately stated that they will take an appeal against this sentence because the prosecution failed to produce evidence in support of the charges. Aw-Ahmed told Hassan’s family and colleagues that they can pay money for the jail term without mentioning the amount to pay if they decide so.

“These are fabricated charges. The trial violated Hassan’s rights to free expression. We all witnessed that he had been unfairly tried and that there was no reason for the imposition of a prison sentence,” said Ahmed Mohamud Mohamed, NUSOJ Secretary for Labour Issues, who, after attending today’s court hearing and the announcement of the verdict, held press conference in Bossasso.

One of the lawyers told NUSOJ that the judicial process was unfair, with violations at every stage of the process including contradictory statements from the prosecutor, procedural irregularities and hurried manner in which the journalist was sentenced within 2 hour when he first appeared before court while the prosecutor produced no single evidence to substantiate charges levelled against the journalist.

“We are outraged that our colleague, Faysal Mohamed Hassan, was convicted on trumped-up charges” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “The Puntland judiciary revealed itself to be just another component in Puntland’s oppressive machine. We call for Hassan’s immediate release.”

Hassan was immediately handcuffed and taken to Bossasso central prison since he was earlier detained in a police station.

— For further information, contact:
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Taleex Street, KM4 Area, Hodan District,
Mogadishu, Somalia, tel/fax: +252 1 859 944,

National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is a national union representing Somali journalists to promote and protect freedom of the press and the interests and rights of journalists. It is a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Freedom of Expression exchange (IFEX), Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA). NUSOJ is partner with Reporters without Borders (RWB).