Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday’s release of radio Horseed Media FM director Abdifatah Jama Mire after 86 days of detention in Bosaso, in the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Puntland.
Sentenced to six years in prison for broadcasting an interview with the head of a rebel group linked to Al-Qaeda, he was pardoned by Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole.
Reporters Without Borders nonetheless thinks it is unacceptable that Puntland’s journalists are exposed to this kind of harassment and intimidation. Mire’s unjust arrest and conviction violated media freedom. Arrests are used to get journalists to censor themselves and play along with authorities.
14- 08- 2010- Abdifatah Jama Mire, the deputy director of a radio station based in Bosaso, in the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Puntland, was sentenced to six years in prison in a summary trial in Bosaso today for interviewing a local rebel chief linked to Al-Qaeda.
Mire and seven other journalists employed by radio Horseed Media FM were arrested when heavily-armed police raided the station and suspended its transmissions at 5:20 p.m. yesterday, shortly after it broadcast an interview with Sheikh Mohamed Said Attom, the commander of a group of Islamist militants who are fighting the Puntland government in the Galgala area.
The journalists were taken to Bosaso police headquarters where they were interrogated by regional police chief Col. Osman Afdalouw and other senior officers. They were all released yesterday evening except Mire. The media were barred from the courtroom during today’s trial, which lasted just a few minutes.
“Mire’s jail sentence and the arbitrary detention of his seven colleagues for several hours yesterday constitute flagrant and deliberate press freedom violations by the Puntland authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for his immediate release.”
Puntland’s deputy information minister, Abdiqani Salad Gurey, told Agence France-Presse that Mire was sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 500 dollars for violating Puntland’s anti-terrorist laws.
Horseed Media executive director Mahad Musse said he did not understand why the media were being targeted for covering the fighting between the Puntland forces and rebels led by Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom in the mountainous district of Galgala.
The authorities welcomed it when the local media broadcast government statements and punished them when they interviewed the opposition, he said. “This is totally against the freedom of the press in Puntland,” he added.
A Horseed Media FM representative told Reporters Without Borders that the station intended to file an appeal against Mire’s conviction later today.
Nuh Muse Birjeb, a journalist working for Voice of America’s Somali-language service, was meanwhile forbidden from working in Puntland by the region’s government earlier this week.