The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed a call by its affiliate in Somalia, the National Union of Somali Journalists, to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn to free Somali journalist, Mohamed Aweys Mudey, found guilty under Ethiopia’s notoriously harsh anti-terror laws and sentenced to 27 years in jail.
The call was made on the occasion of a summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Kampala, Uganda, which is attended by presidents and prime ministers from eight member states in East Africa.
The Prime Minister was sent by NUSOJ a petition signed by 24,000 supporters including journalists, writers and press freedom and human rights activists from 97 countries. Launched by NUSOJ, the petition, calling for the “immediate and unconditional release of Mudey,” received massive support in a matter of days, after being promoted by freedom of expression organisation IFEX and by the African Freedom of Expression exchange (AFEX).
“The petition was a major success for our union in Somalia which managed to motivate tens of thousands of people in support of Mohamed Mudey, said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “It is heartening to see a small union taking up the cudgels in defence of one of their members against an authoritarian regime. I urge all our unions with members unjustly jailed to follow the lead of NUSOJ and join the IFJ campaigns to free journalists in prison.”
NUSOJ Secretary General, Omar Faruk Osman, thanked all the organisations and activists who expressed solidarity with Mudey and said: “My union is overwhelmed by such a massive reaction from all over the world rejecting the charges and condemning the guilty verdict as well as the harsh sentence. Mohamed Aweys Mudey is not guilty of any crime.
“He has been persecuted and unjustly jailed because he is a journalist and he is a Somali. Ethiopian authorities should listen to the calls of these thousands of people and free Mudey”.
NUSOJ’s campaigns for the right of Somali journalists received a boost after the African Commission on Human & People’s Rights (ACHPR), Africa’s top inter-governmental human rights body, agreed during its extraordinary session on 7-14 March, resolution 264 on attacks of journalists and media practitioners in Somalia.
The commission expressed concern “about the restrictions and intimidations against NUSOJ such as negative labelling, prosecution as well as physical harassment and intimidation of its members” and appealed for them to be ceased immediately.
It also called on “the Somali authorities to respect, protect and promote the right to life, freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly of journalists and media practitioners as provided in the African Charter and other international and regional human rights instruments”.
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The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries