IPI condemns prison term handed to Somali journalist
Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim given one year for reporting on alleged rape
By: Jan Beyer, IPI Contributor
VIENNA, Feb 7, 2013 – The International Press Institute condemned the prison sentence handed to a Somali journalist after he investigated a rape case allegedly involving Somali security forces, and called for the reporter to be freed immediately.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim was sentenced to one year in prison for “false reporting” and for “offending the reputation of a national institution” in the context of his investigation into a rape case that allegedly involved Somali security forces, reports said. He was taken to prison directly after his trial. Lul Ali Osman, 27, the alleged rape victim, was also sentenced to one year in prison.
Mohamed Ibrahim, Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), said to IPI: “We are very disappointed about the sentence, which could have a chilling effect on the future of the freedom of the press in Somalia or could mean intimidation and censorship of the future reporting of similar stories.”
He added: “We call for the government to immediately release the journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, and investigate the crimes against the killings of journalists, to end the impunity.”
The convicted journalist was charged with filing a false report in spite of never having published his interview, reports said.
Ibrahim, who reports for several Somali radio stations as well as international media, was arrested on Jan. 10 in Mogadishu while investigating sexual violence in Somalia and has been in custody ever since. As part of that investigation, Ibrahim interviewed Osman. Osman claimed that she was raped by government troops last year, reports said.
Police accused him of having conducted an interview with a woman without the presence of her husband. The circumstances under which the arrest took place seem to be in clear violation of due process, as the journalist was detained without formal charges and denied legal representation for days.
By the same token, the trial against Ibrahim that opened on Feb. 2 was reportedly riddled with irregularities. Reports said the defense was denied the opportunity to present witnesses and that witnesses had been intimidated.
The court ordered Osman, the alleged rape victim, to begin her prison sentence after nursing her baby. Three other individuals, including Osman’s husband as well as a man and woman accused of establishing the contact with the journalist, were released without charge.
Deputy Attorney General Jamal Mohamed Ahmed claimed that Ibrahim’s sentencing served the purpose of “defending the honor of the Somali government and its police”, the German magazine Spiegel reported.
IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “Rather than upholding the honor of the police force, this trial and conviction of Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim appear to indicate the lengths to which the Somali authorities will go to suppress news of alleged wrongdoing by security officers.”