In Puntland, Somalia’s semi-autonomous region, a court has jailed a journalist for interviewing a Muslim leader with ties to al-Qaeda-inspired fighters, local media and an international watchdog have said.
Abdifatah Jama Mire, the deputy director of Horseed FM, and seven of his colleagues were seized by armed police late on Friday after the radio broadcast an interview with Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom.
Mire’s trial took place on Saturday and only lasted minutes behind closed doors, local media said. Mire’s colleagues were released without trial.
“The judge of Bosasso court sentenced the director [Mire] to six years imprisonment and a $500 fine,” a local resident called Hussein said. The court could not be reached for comment.
Flagrant and deliberate violations
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said: “Mire’s jail sentence and the arbitrary detention of his seven colleagues for several hours … constitute flagrant and deliberate press freedom violations by the Puntland authorities.”
In July, Sheikh Atom vowed to wage a holy war against Puntland’s leaders until his strict interpretation of sharia law prevails.
According to the United Nations, Sheikh Atom is one of the principal suppliers of arms and ammunition for Somalia’s al-Shabaab group in Puntland.
Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists : nine were killed last year and some foreign reporters have been kidnapped by rebels and held for ransom.
Puntland is a major pirate base. And although the region has been relatively stable compared with the rest of Somalia, violence and instability have spiked in the region in recent months.