A 19-year-old journalist, who spoke out about being raped last month, was sentenced to jail for six months for defamation and lying by a court in Somalia. The journalists who reported her story were also found guilty of defamation and offending state institutions and were sentenced to a year and six months respectively.
In November, the alleged victim told the independent Radio Shabelle that two of her fellow journalists from the state-owned Radio Mogadishu attacked and raped her at gunpoint.
In the video interview broadcast on Radio Shabelle’s website, the 19-year-old said:
“One of the men threatened me with a pistol, and took me to the bedroom by force…both of them raped me several times, destroying my pride and dignity. I am appealing to the government to take legal action against the rapists, they might have done the same to other poor girls.”
After the interview, police arrested the woman along with the male reporter who interviewed her, and the owner of Radio Shabelle. The men were detained in a prison in Mogadishu, the country’s capital.
The two Radio Mogadishu journalists who were accused of the rape were arrested but released within hours by authorities.
The woman will be confined to home, serving a suspended six-month jail sentence. The reporter, Mohamed Bashir, was sentenced to six months in prison, and the radio station’s manager, Abdiimalik Yusuf, will serve a year in prison. The two men have the option of paying fines to leave the jail; $365 for Yusuf, and $180 for Bashir.
Somalia’s government has insisted that it protects freedom of press in the country. A government spokesman said:
“Journalists perform a critical role and we want them to be able to work without fear or favor. A free press is at the heart of every democracy and is guaranteed under our new constitution.”
This is the second such incident in Somalia this year, a country where rape is rampant and reporting on sexual assault is rare.
In February, another alleged rape victim and the journalist who interviewed her, were sentenced to a year in prison. The court found them guilty of “offending state institutions.” The court found the woman guilty of lying after she was a given the degrading “finger test” to check if she had been raped. However, both of them were released after two months when the case sparked worldwide criticism.
In August, a Somali woman was held for police questioning after she alleged gang rape by African Union soldiers.