MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland has jailed a journalist for interviewing a rebel leader who claims links to al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants, local media and an international watchdog said.
Armed police seized Abdifatah Jama Mire, the deputy director of Horseed FM, and six of his colleagues, late on Friday after the radio station broadcast an interview with insurgent commander Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom.
Local media said his trial on Saturday lasted a matter of minutes, held behind closed doors. Mire’s colleagues were released without trial.
“The judge of Bosasso court sentenced the director (Mire) to six years imprisonment and a $500 fine,” a local resident called Hussein said. The court could not be reached for comment.
Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders said: “Mire’s jail sentence and the arbitrary detention of his seven colleagues for several hours ... constitute flagrant and deliberate press freedom violations by the Puntland authorities.”
Last month, Sheikh Atom vowed to wage a holy war against Puntland’s leaders until his strict interpretation of sharia law prevails. The United Nations says Sheikh Atom is one of the principal suppliers of arms and ammunition for Somalia’s militant al-Shabaab group in Puntland.
Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Last year nine were killed and some foreign reporters have been kidnapped by rebels and held for ransom.
A major pirate base, Puntland has been relatively stable compared with the rest of Somalia but in recent months violence and instability have spiked in the region.