Outrage as Somaliland court sentences journalist to three years in prison

Mogadishu, 8 July 2019: The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) has protested what it called the unfair and politically-motivated court ruling against prominent journalist Abdimalik Muse Oldon after a court in Somaliland on Monday sentenced the journalist to three and a half years in jail. The SJS called on the Hargeisa-based Marodi Jeh court to retract its decision.

According to the SJS, the Marodi Jeh Regional Court judge sentenced Abdimalik Muse Oldon even though the defending lawyers clearly proved the groundlessness of  the allegations brought to the court against the journalist who was arrested on 17TH April over his critical reporting and social media posts deemed to be critical of the state.

Two of Oldon’s lawyers, Mubarik Abdi Ismail and Jamal Hussein Ahmed, said they will appeal against the verdict at the High Court. Both lawyers said the judgment was an affront to the Somaliland constitution which guarantees freedom of expression.

“Today is another black day for freedom of expression in Somaliland. Journalist Oldon has been sentenced to three and half years despite there being no single plaintiff in the case,” defence lawyer Jamal Hussein Ahmed said. “We shall of course respond and appeal against this injustice.”

The authorities in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland have arrested 28 journalists in 2018, an indication of the growing decline in freedom of expression in the breakaway region, the SJS says.

“The court sentence against journalist Abdimalik Muse Oldon is politically motivated and therefore it is completely unacceptable,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary-General of SJS said.

“We call on the authorities in Somaliland to stop criminalizing journalists for only expressing their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, including freedom of expression and immediately free the journalist,” Mumin added.