Somali media fraternity calls for free press and end of impunity in Somalia

Somali Media Fraternity condemn the continued enforced disappearance against Radio Hiigsi editor, Mohamed Abduwahaab Nuur (Abuuja) since 7th March in Mogadishu and the acts of pressure and intimidations by Villa Somalia press officer against journalists and media houses including the use of Covid-19 media awareness funds to compromise the editorial integrity of the independent media.

In a press conference held in Mogadishu on Monday, leaders of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ), Somali Media Association (SOMA) and Somali Independent Media Houses Association (SIMHA) called for the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to immediately free journalist Mohamed Abuuja or allow him access to court of law without further delay.

We now recognize Abuuja detention as an enforced disappearance as he was secretly imprisoned and has never been given access to a lawyer of family visits.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) has expressed grave concern about the total impunity enjoyed by government officials. including the Presidential Press Officer who in several occasions pressured journalists brutally assaulted by the police to withdraw their statement of complaints against the police.

“We are extremely concerned that whenever a journalist is beaten or brutally assaulted by the police, the Villa Somalia Press Officer is on the front to pressure and intimidate journalists and force them to withdraw their complaints. This must stop. Journalists should be allowed to publicly seek legal redress even if the person involved in senior official. Nobody is above the law,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin said “In this regard, number of journalists fleeing the country has increased compared to similar period last year.”

Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the Secretary General of Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) declared that the continued detention of Radio Hiigsi’s editor, Mohamed Abuwahaab Abuuja is unjustifiable imprisonment and be recognized as enforced disappearance.

“Today marks 70th day since journalist Mohamed Abduwahaab Abuuja was illegally detained. We can now declare that this is an enforced disappearance against a journalist who comes from a very marginalized community,” Mohamed Moalimuu said “We call for his immediate release or be brought to a court of law and allow him to have a lawyer.”

Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) has noted that despite the media houses are grappling with serious financial problems and the lack of access to information and to the government offices left journalists to be unable to carry our their duties properly, certain Somali government officials have now begun to take advantage of the Coid-19 funds from the international community to manipulate media news coverage and weaken the editorial integrity.

“Our media houses are on the brink to collapse because of the high level interference by the top government offices that they not only threaten our staff and journalists but also attempting to use diverted Covid-19 funds in favor of positive coverage. Some of our media houses were promised with money in return for not covering certain bits of news such security, Coronavirus pandemic and advocating for a timely election in Somalia,” Mohamed Abduwahab said “International organizations are playing major role in this problem by distributing funds without putting measures to protect against mismanagement of their funds in the accounts of the government.”

We jointly call for the Somali Government to investigate all threats against the media professionals and prosecute the perpetrators including the police officer who shot dead Cameraman Abdifatah Qasim Iman  (killed in Mogadishu on 26 July, 2018); and the killers of journalists Abdiwali Ali Hassan (killed in Afgoye on 16 February, 2020) and Said Yusuf Ali (killed in Mogadishu on 04 May, 2020).

Finally we jointly call for the members of the international community to investigate how Somali officials are using the international funds intended for the Covid-19 media awareness so that these funds will not affect the editorial independence of the local media.