Somali Court Jails A Woman, Two Journalists For Reporting Her Rape

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A 19-year-old woman in Somalia was given a jail sentence after she reported that she was raped and two journalists broadcasted her story.

The victim told Radio Shabelle last month that she was raped at gunpoint. Both of the radio broadcasters who listened to her story were sent to jail.

Neither of the men the victim accused of raping her were ever arrested.

The U.S. said it was “deeply concerned” about the case. The United Nations called for a “proper investigation” into the victim's claim in November.

The woman, who is also a journalist, was given a six-month suspended jail sentence on Monday for defamation and lying. She will be put under house arrest for that time, said Judge Hashi Elmi Nur.

One male journalist was sentenced to one year in jail and the other six months, or they can pay a fine in order for early release. The fine for early release is about a dollar a day, so a one-year sentence will cost $365 for early release.

"The manager of Radio Shabelle, Abdilmalik Yusuf, was found guilty of offending state institutions, and therefore will serve a prison term of one year," Judge Nur told the court. "Journalist Mohamed Bashir was found guilty of defamation and making false rape accusations, so he is given a six-month jail term."

This is the second time in 2013 that a Somali woman has faced discipline for speaking out about being raped. Journalists who report their stories are also at risk.

In January, a 27-year-old woman was accused of making false claims after she reported that government security forces had raped her. The journalist who interviewed her was also charged. Her alleged attackers have never been arrested.

In August, another 27-year-old woman alleged she was gang-raped by African Union soldiers in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the treatment of sexual assault victims in Somalia "points to security officials trying to silence both those who report the pervasive problem of sexual violence and those who help rape survivors.”

The Somalian government maintains that sexual violence against females is “unacceptable in Somali culture” and that it protects the freedom of the press.

"The AU mission strongly condemns any incidents of alleged sexual abuse or exploitation and takes the issue extremely serious as it reiterates the mission commitment to enhancing the safety of women and indeed protecting all Somali citizens," the African Union said in an August statement.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Horseed Media