See also:
» 25.08.2009 - Crackdown on independent media ahead of election
» 11.08.2009 - Union denounce conviction of journalists
» 04.01.2007 - Somaliland journalists spend third day in detention
» 16.10.2006 - Islamists burn Somaliland newspaper
» 30.03.2005 - Somaliland again detains Jamhuuriya reporter
» 15.10.2004 - Doubt over democratic values in Somaliland
» 08.09.2004 - Somaliland editor freed; paper deplores repression
» 03.09.2004 - Grave attack on press freedom in Somaliland

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Somaliland journalists freed after 86 days

afrol News, 29 March - Four journalists of Somaliland's independent 'Haatuf' newspaper today were freed at last, after spending 86 days in jail for offending the family of President Dahir Riyale Kahin. Massive pressure from local media and Somalilanders in the Diaspora secured their release.

"Free at last with people's power," the Somalilander media 'Awdalnews' celebrated the news today. The independent online media, along with many other Somalilanders, had been pressurising heavily for the journalists' release, counting the days of their detention on its website.

The publisher of the privately-owned daily 'Haatuf', Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, on 4 March was sentenced to two years in prison for "reporting false information about the government, discrediting the President and his family and creating inter-communal tension." Mr Gabobe and a colleague were arrested during a police raid on the newspaper on 2 January.

The newspaper's editor-in-chief, Ali Abdi Dini, and its correspondent in Somaliland's western Awdal region, Mohamed Omar Sheik, were also sentenced to two years and five months in prison, as was a fourth journalist, Ibrahim Mohamed Rashid Fara, who was tried in absentia.

The court also suspended the licence of 'Haatuf' and gave the Haatuf Media Network a fine of about US$ 800.

After meeting with the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA), Somaliland President Riyale said on 21 February that he was ready to pardon the 'Haatuf' journalists if they were convicted. The government has however waited until today to release the four.

Somaliland, a breakaway region in north-western Somalia that unilaterally went back to its independence status of 1960 after civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, had a good human rights record until the arrest of the 'Haatuf' journalists. President Riyale used the country's stability and democracy as a means of lobbying for international recognition, thus shocking supporters by the January attack on the free press.

Few details are so far known on the release of the 'Haatuf' journalists and how it was accomplished. Several Somaliland media however confirm their release this evening.

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