Nairobi — The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today declares that the year 2011 was characterized by the worst possible perilous conditions in which journalists operate in Somalia, as journalists were deliberately singled out for cruel and unjust treatment.
The year, worse than the previous year 2010 in all respects of press freedom violations and abuse and crushing of fundamental rights of journalists, has been a period smeared with the blood of journalists. Media professionals have been victims of the totally unrestrained and autocratic use of the gun by security and public authorities.
"The conditions in which journalists work have reached new level of crisis in 2011. Journalists have increasingly become victims of threats, deliberate violence, unfounded criminal proceedings, wounding and even heartless murders," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
NUSOJ systematically and thoroughly recorded in the past 12 months horrifying cases of killings, wounding, arrests, beatings, intimidation, harassment, judicial and persecutions of journalists. These frequent instances mostly took place in Mogadishu, Bossasso, Galkayo, Hargeisa and Berbera towns. Media houses were not spared from organized attacks.
In 2011, 4 journalists were murdered in Mogadishu alone, making it the only place where the utmost repulsive crimes against journalists were committed. A further 7 journalists were wounded, 5 in Mogadishu, while the remaining 2 were wounded in Bossasso and Galkayo.
19 journalists were arrested at whim, 96% without arrest warrant, detained without official charges. Media workers victimized in this period have had different careers in the media, be it reporter, newscaster, cameraman, editor or director. 7 media houses have been targeted with aggressive, repressive and violent actions.
Mogadishu was the city where most of the violations and other attacks against journalists and media houses were carried out, Hargeisa became second in terms of where cases of violations took place. Bossasso and Galkayo fell back to third equal in terms of the occurrence of violations, though journalists in Galkayo have felt more unsafe than any other journalist in Puntland regions.
While freedom of expression has been grossly violated, the corollary right of freedom of association has been under real threat. The leadership of NUSOJ has been intimidated from freely organizing and publicly promoting their positions on issues of violations, including mistreatment by authorities within the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) against the legitimate leadership and actions of the union. The leadership of the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) has been under intense pressure from the authorities in Hargeisa, culminating in the arbitrary arrest of its chairman.
Security forces under the command of political figures within the TFG are those most frequently responsible for violating these rights. Somaliland ministers and prosecutor have been responsible for pursuing criminal proceedings against journalists and the private print press, aided by arbitrary police arrests of journalists. Puntland authorities came third in terms of violations of fundamental rights of journalists and press freedom. Surprisingly, the Al-Shabaab group reduced its grip on journalists and committed fewer attacks than TFG forces, the Somaliland administration and Puntland authorities, due to changes in its political base, armed force and territorial space.
"Impunity is the silent enemy, fuelling increasing danger and number of perpetrations of violations of fundamental rights of journalists and press freedom. No matter if they commit murder or threaten a journalist, the perpetrator knows that they will walk away free", added Osman.