Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) calls for Puntland authorities to drop its politically-motivated new charges brought today and intended to harass and silence freelance journalist Kilwe Adan Farah who is detained since 27 December 2020 for reporting anti-inflation protest in Garowe.
On Thursday 25 February, after holding Kilwe in jail for 60 days, the Court of Armed Forces of Puntland State issued new charges: Art. 320 (Instigation of delinquency); Art. 321 (Instigation of Disobey to the Laws); Art. 328 (Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated or Tendencious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order): Art. 271 (Offence against the Authorities by Means of Damaging Posters); and Art. 219 (Bringing the Nation or the State into Contempt). All are in the outdated (1964) Somali Penal Code currently used to charge and prosecute journalists in Somalia.
The new charges are utterly different from the previous charges of “Attempted Murder and Murder” which were verbally brought by the same military court against Kilwe on 11 January 2021.
In the new charge sheet seen by SJS, the prosecutor of the First Instance Court of the Armed Forces, Said Hersi Ibrahim cites a 20 January 2021 communication from Puntland Intelligence and Security Agency (PISA), the agency that detained and held Kilwe, to the Military Court. According to the journalist’s defense lawyer, it is strange that authorities are lacking any single evidence for Kilwe’s case and therefore are reluctant to free him.
“The Puntland Armed Forces Court has no legal jurisdiction to charge my client Kilwe Adan Farah, who is a professional journalist. All the new charges that have been issued today are baseless and unsubstantiated. We demand the court to order Kilwe’s freedom and compensate him for the period during his imprisonment,” Defense Lawyer, Mustafe Mohamed Jama said.
“It is outrageous that Puntland military tribunal which supposedly is intended to charge and prosecute armed forces and members of al-Shabaab, is the one who is bringing these charges– even after authorities seem to have backtracked their initial charges of “attempted murder and murder” due to lack of evidence,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the secretary general of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said.
“These new charges are a clear indication that journalist Kilwe’s detention on 27 December 2020 was politically motivated and only meant to harass and silence him after he covered the 26 December anti-inflation protest in Garowe. We now call for court officials to drop these baseless charges and free our colleague Kilwe immediately,” Mr. Mumin adds.
Michael Polak, a London based international law barrister, who is assisting SJS in Kilwe’s case, has stated “the fact that the charges now seem to have changed from attempted murder, where there was no evidence of any potential victim, to those surrounding journalist Kilwe’s media work shows the arbitrary nature of the case against him. The real motivation behind the enforced disappearance of Mr. Kilwe and his now prosecution is because he was exercising his right to provide news to the Somali people. The UN and African Union must speak out on this case and the continuous attacks on press freedom in Somalia.”
On 1 February 2021, Kilwe was nominated among the 10 Most Urgent Press Freedom cases for February 2021 by the One Free Press Coalition, which is an international coalition of media houses and organizations that stand up for journalists under attack for pursuing the truth worldwide