Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Mohamed Dirir, a journalist who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on 8 October by a court in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-proclaimed independent state of Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia.
The owner of the online newspaper Saylac Today, Dirir was convicted on charges of criminal defamation and publishing false news in connection with an article about harassment of young female students at the Noradin private school in Hargeisa. He has been detained since 16 September.
The verdict was handed down very quickly, on the same day as the summing-up for the prosecution, and when Dirir’s lawyer was not in court. Dirir plans to appeal.
“We condemn this arbitrary verdict and the way it was issued, which violated the defendant’s right to due process, because his lawyer was not present,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We ask the Hargeisa courts to comply with Somaliland’s constitution, which says press freedom must be respected and we call for this journalist’s immediate release.”