On IDEI, Somali journalists and their unions call for urgent end of impunity

MOGADISHU, Somalia 2 November 2020 – In a joint commemoration held in Mogadishu on the International Day to End Impunity for the Crimes Against Journalists on 2nd November, Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), Somali Media Association (SOMA) and Media Women Network (MWN) called for an urgent action to end the culture of impunity for the crimes against the journalists in Somalia.

Eleven journalists were killed in the country in the past four years: 3 in 2017; 4 in 2018; 2 in 2019 and 2 in 2020, making the country to remain as one of the most dangerous places for journalists across the globe. For the sixth year in a row, the country has maintained the ignominious world title for impunitytowards killed journalists. Unfortunately authorities in Somalia are reluctant to carry out credible, proper and independent thorough investigations into the cases of killings or attacks on journalists and media outlets.

The total impunity enjoyed by the killers of the journalists allows them to attack scribes for the slightest infractions as journalists now work warily, cognizant of the risks involved –unaware what report may trigger peril and self-censor as a means of survival. Corruption also remains as part of the problem.

During the Monday’s commemoration, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) expressed concern about the unprecedented rise of level of assaults and targeted incidents of attacks on journalists in the country in the past few years.

“Apart from the killings, there were also attempted killings, physical assaults that resulted injuries on journalists, death threats and obstruction of access to information,” Mr. Mumin said.

“We condemn all the killings against the journalists in the country as we call for authorities to open proper investigations. This should include investigating security officials, regardless of rank, complicit in abuses against journalists or who fail to adequately investigate alleged harassment, threats or violence against journalists,” Mr Mumin added.

Mohamed Abduwahab, the secretary general of Somali Media Association noted the need for ensuring safety for the journalists ahead of the upcoming general elections.

“Safety of the journalists should be at paramount importance ahead of the elections. Somali journalists have always seen a cycle of violence during the transition time and this is not an exceptional,” Mr. Abduwahab said.

Shamis Abdirahman, the deputy chair of Media Women Network expressed concern about the impact the insecurity have had on the journalists including that some journalists resorted to self-censorship.

“Throughout the country, journalists are reluctant to report on certain topics such violence against women and other human rights abuses, without fear of reprisals. This is the negative impact we have seen from the insecurity that journalists are dealing with,” Ms. Said.

On his part, Prof. Hassan Sheikh Nur, a senior Somali National University Lecturer noted the need for a wider initiative to safeguard journalists. He suggested the local communities to stand in solidarity with journalists’ organisations to protect the endangered journalists in certain locations.

“I don’t think we have to wait for anybody else. Local communities and journalists’ associations must work together to protect the journalists who are in danger,” Prof Nur said.

On Monday, journalists, representatives from the media associations and members of the civil society observed a minute of silence and prayer for the slain journalists who were murdered in the line of duty before making a joint recommendations to the Somali Federal Government and the International Community.

Somali Government and its Member States should:

▪ Carry out credible and independent investigation into all cases of journalists killed
▪ Publicly condemn physical attacks, killings, threats, harassment, obstruction, intimidation and arbitrary arrests of journalists and other media workers;
▪ Ensure that the proposed new prosecutor on crimes against journalists promptly and impartially investigates credible allegations of harassment, threats or violence against journalists and media outlets;
▪ This should include investigating security officials, regardless of rank, complicit in abuses against journalists or who fail to adequately investigate alleged harassment, threats or violence against journalists;
▪ Direct government officials and security forces to allow journalists and media workers access to government information including by not putting impediments and restrictions on accessing government buildings and interviewing public officials;
▪ Train the police and other security officials on human rights including on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom;
The International Community should:

▪ Pressure the Federal Government and its Member States to respect, protect, promote and fulfil media freedom and the rights of journalists;
▪ Provide support to the efforts by the Somali media associations and the journalists including initiatives to ensure safety and protection for the journalists;
▪ Support initiatives by the Somalia government to reform laws and regulatory institutions to bring them into compliance with Somalia’s international human rights obligations; provide technical support and assistance to such initiatives;
▪ Continue supporting actions that promote the safety of journalists in Somalia and put pressure on authorities to address the issue of impunity for abuses and attacks against journalists;
▪ Publicly speak out about the importance of human rights including the right to freedom of expression and media freedom for Somalia’s peace and state building processes;