A chilling message to press freedom in Somalia: Banadir Regional Court sentences Goobjoog journalist Gurbiye to six months in jail and cash fine

MOGADISHU, Somalia 29 July, 2020 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA) are extremely concerned by the Banadir Regional Court sentence of six months jail term and a fine of five million Somali Shilling against Goobjoog journalist, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye on Wednesday 29 July, 2020.

The presiding judge, Mohamud Yasin announced the verdict on Article 328 of the Penal Code, which states “publication or circulation of false, exaggerated or tendencious news. The Court, however, dropped another charge of Article 269 “insult to a political, administrative or judicial body”.

Following the court sentence, Gurbiye was transferred to Mogadishu Central Prison.

“The court’s six month jail term and cash fine against Goobjoog journalist Abdiaziz Gurbiye sends chilling message to the media community in Somalia. This clearly represents that Somalia government is at war on the independent press and its intention to silence the journalists through the judiciary,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), “Citizens’ right to free expression is guaranteed under the Somali provisional constitutional and local, regional conventions in which Somalia must observe and we call for his unconditional release.”

Gurbiye was initially charged with Article 220, but the Attorney General’s office altered the charges several times during the court proceedings, an indication the charges brought against Gurbiye were politically motivated.

“The harsh sentence against our colleague Gurbiye is unacceptable and is a direct threat to the press freedom and undermines the media’s obligation to inform, entertain and educate the public,” Mohamed Abduwahab, Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said “Journalism is not a crime and using outdated criminal code violates the Somali Constitution which guarantees the freedom of expression and that of the press.”

“Our client Abdiaziz Gurbiye was wrongfully sentenced today. We oppose this sentence and we’ll not hesitate to seek legal redress to repeal it,” Dahir Mohamed Ali, the lead lawyer of the journalist’s defense team said.

Late last month, SJS and SOMA secured lawyers to defend Gurbiye before the court of law as the first hearing of the case took place on 7 July. SJS and SOMA will continue to stand in solidarity with Goobjoog Media Group and Abdiaziz Gurbiye as we applaud our lawyers who are defending Gurbiye before the courts of law.