Goobjoog journalist, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye appears before the Banadir Regional Court on Thursday 23 July, 2020.
Goobjoog journalist, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye appears before the Banadir Regional Court on Thursday 23 July, 2020. | Photo/SJS.

MOGADISHU, Somalia 23 July, 2020 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA) call for the Banadir Regional Court to dismiss the baseless and trumped up charges against Goobjoog journalist, Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye who appeared before the court on Thursday 23 July, 2020.

In today’s court hearing, the prosecutor presented amended charges based on Articles 328 (publication or circulation of false, exaggerated or tendencious news); and 269 (insult to a political, administrative or judicial body) of the Somali Penal Code.  The defending lawyers, however, refused the new charges and requested the court to dismiss the case. The presiding judge, Mohamud Yasin then closed the hearing and announced that the court will determine its verdict in unspecified date.

“Today our client, journalist Abdiaziz Gurbiye appeared before the court. The prosecutor brought new charges of the Penal Code to be used against Gurbiye. We have noted to the court that journalism is not a crime and therefore, we have requested the court to dismiss the case and free our client Gurbiye,” said the lead lawyer of the defense team, Dahir Mohamed Ali in a joint press conference attended by SJS and SOMA leaders.

SJS and SOMA expressed their concern about the continued intimidation by Somali president’s office meant to harass and confuse the process of the case. Gurbiye was first arrested and charged with Article 220 of the Penal Code on 14 April a day after he wrote a Facebook post alleging, “the Somali president had taken away a donated ventilator” from a local hospital which treats Covid-19 patients. He was released on bail on 18 April. But the Attorney General changed the charges, according to a document seen by SJS and SOMA.

We jointly call for the court to dismiss this politically motivated case against Gurbiye. SJS and SOMA are also worried and demand a full investigation into the hacking of Gurbiye’s Facebook page which took place on Monday 20 July, the same day the court adjourned the second hearing of Gurbiye’s case.

“Today once again we were at the court to hear the case against our colleague journalist Abdiaziz Gurbiye.  He was initially charged with Article 220, but unfortunately today, the Attorney General’s office brought altered the charges. This indicates how the case against Gurbiye is a politically motivated one,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “Journalism is not a crime and we hope that the judge will understand and release the journalist.”

“The charges against Gurbiye are all baseless and the court should look into that. Authorities at the Villa Somalia should also stop weaponising the Attorney General against the free press particularly in the case against Gurbiye,” Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said.

SJS and SOMA will continue to stand in solidarity with Goobjoog Media Group and Abdiaziz Gurbiye as we applaud our lawyers who are defending Gurbiye before the courts of law.