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Somali government denies reports of censoring media, restricting journalists

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The Somali government has denied reports that an official of the presidential office had made calls to several media outlets ordering them to submit their content to the office for review before they could be published.

Journalists in the Horn of Africa nation had raised the alarm on Friday, accusing the government of censoring the media and putting restrictions on them.

They had also condemned the harassment and arbitrary arrests of their colleagues for reporting on the activities of the al-Shabaab militant group.

The government had warned journalists from publishing al-Shabaab content and said they should refer to the militant group only as Khawarij, which loosely translates as “those who deviate from the Islamic faith.”

But journalists in the country say the directives on covering the group will limit press freedom and could put them at risk of retaliation from the militant group.

The media practitioners had specifically said they had been receiving calls from a person who identified himself as Abdelkadir Hussein Wehliye, claiming that he was from the presidential office also called Villa Somalia.

The Somali Journalists Syndicate, also confirmed that at that time that at least seven media houses received the same call from the same source.

But in a statement on Sunday, the Director of Communications at the Villa Somalia, Abdikadir Dige, denied that the caller was a staff of the presidential office.

“Firstly, there is nobody by the name of Abdikadir Hussein Wehilye that is employed with the President’s Communication Office.

“And secondly, there isn’t anyone with that name authorized to speak with the media on behalf of the President’s Communication Office or any other departments at Villa Somalia,” he said.

Metro

Egyptian court sentences terror leader to death, 11 others to life imprisonment over 2017 charges

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A special court in Egypt has sentenced a terrorist to death by hanging, while 11 others bagged life imprisonment, over various terror charges dating back to 2017, authorities say.

The sentences which were handed down on Tuesday by the First Terrorism Circuit at Egypt’s State Security Criminal Court, also saw three suspects getting 15 years imprisonment and three others jailed 10 years on various other charges.

The prosecution had accused the first defendant of assuming the “leadership of a terrorist group from 2015 to 2019, endangering social peace, obstructing government administration, destruction of public property, planning to hijack police vehicles and kill police personnel as well as possessing firearms.”

The state prosecutor also said the others were charged with “joining a terrorist group, attempting to kill officers and police personnel, destroying public property, and possessing firearms.”

The defendants reportedly lived in the popular neighbourhood of Al-Omraniya in Giza Governorate.

Egyptian rights group, Front for Human Rights, while condemning the sentences in a report on Wednesday, said that it had monitored an increase in the issuance of death sentences by civil criminal courts which reached 538 death sentences in 2022, compared to 403 sentences in 2021 and 295 sentences in 2020.

“We have noticed that the Egyptian government uses terror charges against dissidents and opposition figures it wishes to silence, with many sentenced in trials which are not fair and which do not provide them the right to a defence,” the group said.

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Cameroonian media mogul, 27 others arrested for murder of journalist

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At least 28 people including a well known Cameroonian media mogul, Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, the owner of Vision 4 TV based in Douala, and several senior police officers have been arrested and detained by authorities in the country in connection with the killing last month of popular broadcast journalist, Martinez Zogo, who was abducted and killed last month.

The mutilated body of the radio host was found on January 22 in Yaounde, five days after he was abducted near a police station after he started a programme where he began exposing official corruption and mentioned names of top government officials.

Media organisations in the Central African country had also reported the murder of a Catholic priest and radio host, Jean Jacques Ola Bebe, who also found dead in the capital after he called for justice for Zogo.

The president of the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, Marion Obam, told journalists at a press conference in Douala on Tuesday that Cameroonian journalists will wear dark clothes every Wednesday to show they want all suspected killers of journalists arrested and brought to justice.

“On Monday, police arrested and detained seven more people, including media mogul, Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, who was arrested at his Yaounde home,” Obam said.

She added that Belinga’s chief of security, a former presidential guard commander, and the head of his Vision 4 TV channel.

Friends of the murdered journalist say Zogo had, on his radio program, accused Belinga of planning to kill him for reporting on his (Belinga’s) alleged corrupt deals with officials.

“Since the killings of Zogo and Bebe, several other journalists in Cameroon say they have received death threats.”

“Nobody would want to be killed. When journalists are moving, they feel that the worst can come to them.

“We even have some families who are already beginning to advise that their children should not engage in journalism because it could invite agony to their lives,” Omba said.

“Many journalists are waiting to see the Cameroonian government bring to book those who have brought this kind of agony to the media in Cameroon,” she said.

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