UN warns Somalia after alleged rape victim, journalists arrested
Rape, and reporting on sexual assault, is one of the most sensitive topics in Somalia, and the case is the latest in a series of arrests of victims and the journalists who aired their story.
The alleged victim, a 19-year old reporter, told the independent Radio Shabelle she was attacked and raped at gunpoint by two fellow journalists.
“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,” she said, in a video interview broadcast on Somalia’s Radio Shabelle website earlier this week.
“I am appealing to the government to take legal action against the rapists, they might have done the same to other poor girls,” she added.
Police in the capital Mogadishu have arrested the woman, as well as Mohamed Bashir Hashi, the reporter who interviewed her, and Shabelle’s manager Abdulmalik Yusuf.
None of the men accused of the rape have been arrested.
Nicholas Kay, UN special representative for Somalia, said in a message Thursday the UN was monitoring the “new rape allegation in Mogadishu” and warned that “legal representation, proper investigation and media freedom (are) important issues.”
Somalia’s national union of journalists said that the woman and reporters were arrested after those she accused said she had lied and filed a suit accusing her of defamation.
“Police told us they are facing defamation charges and will be taken to court,” union chief Mohamed Ibrahim said.
Rape victim jailed for ‘offending state institutions’
The victim and Hashi remain in police custody, but the station manager has been released on bail.
Somalia’s internationally-backed government said in a statement Thursday that “rape and sexual violence against women are completely unacceptable in Somali culture”, but would not comment on the case.
“Somalia has an independent judiciary and we must allow the police and judiciary to carry out their investigations,” government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said in a statement.
“It is inappropriate for the government to get involved in the judicial process, as it is any other country.”
Osman also insisted the government did respect press freedom.
“Journalists perform a critical role and we want them to be able to work without fear or favour,” he added. “A free press is at the heart of every democracy and is guaranteed under our new constitution.”
In February, a Somali journalist and a rape victim he interviewed were both sentenced to a year in prison after being found guilty of “offending state institutions”.
However they were released two months into their jail term after the case sparked widespread international criticism.
In that case, the court found the woman had lied after a midwife conducted a “finger test” to see if she had been raped, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) said was an “unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited”.
In August, a Somali woman who alleged she was gang-raped by African Union soldiers was also held by police for questioning.
Earlier this month HRW called on the government to order a new and impartial investigation into that case, saying the response to the incident “has been marred by mismanagement, opacity, and the harassment of the female rape survivor and support service providers.”
This “points to security officials trying to silence both those who report the pervasive problem of sexual violence and those who help rape survivors,” HRW added.
Source:Agence France Presse