Mogadishu, 17 Rabiul Akhir 1434/27 February 2013 (MINA) – Media advocates in Somalia worry that a recent case against a journalists who exposed the story of a gang rape involving members of the national security forces will serve as a deterrent to journalists countrywide.
Journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim was arrested on Jan. 10 for publishing the story of a 27-year-old woman who alleged that she was gang-raped by five Somali security forces in August 2012, according AllAfrican News monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Wednesday.
Ibrahim was detained for one month without charges, but was later charged along with the victim for “insulting state security forces”. Earlier this month a regional court in Mogadishu found both accused guilty and sentenced them to a year in prison. They case went into appeal, with a new verdict now being expected on Wednesday Feb. 27 by the Mogadishu Appeals Court.
“This will make journalists avoid venturing into areas that will lead them to risky stories such as this one,” Abdulahi Elmi, a media advocate in Mogadishu, told IPS. “And that has huge implications for the already-dismal press freedom situation in the country. It will definitely negatively affect and worsen the situation for local media workers.”
The case sparked an international outcry, with international rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) calling for the government to drop its case against both, which HRW deemed “groundless”.
The National Union of Somali Journalists called the conviction “a serious setback” for press freedom.
But Somali government officials have repeatedly distanced themselves from the case, saying it was a judicial matter and insisting on the independence of the country’s judiciary.
Following Ibrahim’s arrest, however, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that his administration would not tolerate negative coverage from the local press.
Local journalists who support Ibrahim told IPS that they would now think twice before interviewing people critical of the government or reporting on stories involving abuse by security forces.
“It was a clear warning for us,” a local journalist told IPS. He asked for anonymity because he feared reprisals. (T/P09/E1).
Miraj News Agency (MINA).