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CPJ welcomes release of Puntland journalist

Jama with his two sons. (Horseed Media)

New York, November 8, 2010--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the presidential pardon and release today of radio journalist Abdifatah Jama, who was imprisoned in August for airing an interview with an Islamist rebel leader in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. CPJ had repeatedly called for his release.

Jama, deputy director of Horseed Media, had begun serving a six-year prison sentence after being convicted on treason charges in a closed-door trial. Jama had appealed the ruling, which was based on his authorization of an interview with Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom, who has waged a guerrilla war against the Puntland administration since 2005. 

The day of the broadcast, Puntland authorities raided the Bossasso office of Horseed FM, arresting Jama and temporarily detaining seven of his colleagues, local journalists reported.

On Sunday, Puntland President Abrirahman Mohamed Farole told reporters that he had issued a presidential pardon for Jama, Puntland Minister of Information Abdihakim Ahmed Guled told CPJ.

"We are extremely relieved that Abdifatah Jama was pardoned and released today after nearly three months in jail," said CPJ's East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "His arrest and conviction violated basic standards of fairness and should not have taken place. We hope this will be the last incident of authorities jailing a journalist for covering this conflict."

In October, two unidentified assailants threw a grenade at the Horseed Media studios in Bossasso, injuring a technician and damaging the roof of the station, local journalists said. The culprits and reason for the attack are still unknown, the executive director of Horseed Media, Mahad Ahmed, told CPJ.

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