Authorities in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland must immediately release journalist Jama Deperani said the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the Somali Human Rights Defenders Coalition, in a joint statement released today.
Jama Deperani, a reporter and presenter with Somali Channel TV, was summoned by the police on 19 November 2015 in the administrative capital Garowe and arrested without being informed of the reason. He was detained in Garowe’s central police station and on 21 November, moved to the central prison after Garowe’s District Court decided to detain him for an additional 15 days to further investigate the case.
Jama presented and produced a critical talk show consisting of interviews with politicians. On 10 November Somali Channel TV, a privately owned broadcaster based in London, received a letter from Puntland’s Ministry of Information ordering the temporary suspension of Jama from his journalistic duties. Four days prior to this directive being issued, Jama had interviewed the Minister of Information. After receiving the letter, Jama continued working and this is widely believed to be the reason behind his arrest.
“International law stresses that pre-trial detention must be a measure of last resort”, said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). “By arbitrarily detaining Jama for longer, the Puntland authorities are sending a clear message that they will crackdown on the media for discussing sensitive issues or expressing criticism of the government.”
“We condemn the unlawful detention of Jama Deperani which is against the spirit of our constitution and international human rights instruments,” said Abdilahi Abdi, the Chairperson for the Somali Human Rights Defenders Coalition. “We call on the Puntland government to immediately release Jama and respect the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression.”
In a solidarity call for Jama, Puntland media workers organised a march holding banners that read ‘free Jama Deperani’ and have repeatedly called for his release through regional press conferences held in Mudug, Nugaal, Bari and the Cayn regions of Puntland. Both EHAHRDP and the coalition take this opportunity to second their call and urge the Puntland government to withdraw all charges, if any. EHAHRDP and the coalition reiterate that Jama’s arrest is a violation of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other regional and international human rights instruments.
The authorities are also urged to take necessary measures to stop all acts of intimidation carried out against journalists working in the country; respect their right to freedom of opinion and expression; and ensure they conduct their activities in a safe and conducive environment.
Tomorrow, on 24 November, the National Conference on Media Development will be held in Mogadishu with representatives from different regional administrations including Puntland. EHAHRDP and the coalition also call upon stakeholders attending the conference to ensure that Jama Deperani’s case and respect for freedom of expression are placed high on the agenda in discussions with the Puntland government.
For further information, please contact:
Hassan Shire, Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 772 753 753 (English and Somali)
Kafia Omar, Special Programs Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 312265824/ +256 775878392 (English and Somali)
Also see “Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists: who are the top contenders?” https://defenddefenders.org/2015/11/impunity-for-crimes-against-journalists-who-are-the-top-contenders-in-the-sub-region/