February 1 — Dear Prime Minister Cameron,
In anticipation of your meeting with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud next week, we would like to bring to your attention recent actions taken by the Somali government, as well as the increasing number of unsolved journalist murders in the country.
Mr. Prime Minister, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague recently launched a global initiative to secure new international action against the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict. However, the Somali government is in the process of prosecuting freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur for interviewing an internally displaced woman on January 8 who claimed she was raped by Somali soldiers while living in a camp last year. Although Abdiaziz never published the interview, he was charged on Monday under Article 269 of the Somali penal code for offending the honor of a state institution and for filing a false report, news reports said. The alleged victim, along with three other individuals, faces charges that could lead to up to nine years in prison, the reports said.
Abdiaziz was detained illegally in a police station for two weeks before he was charged. Throughout his detention, top Somali officials, including the president, the police chief, and the interior minister, issued statements that prematurely judged his guilt and undermined the credibility of the judicial process. Journalists are not above the law, but neither are officials or security forces.
Mr. Prime Minister, the U.K. has taken a leading role in supporting Somalia's recovery, a commitment illustrated by the government's pledge to increase aid levels by 74 percent by 2014, according to news reports. Ultimately, Somalia's success will depend on leadership that, as President Hassan has stated, is accountable and ends a culture of impunity.
On January 17, President Hassan said the country needed to overcome a "culture of impunity." But despite his public pledges to create a task force to investigate journalist murders, none such team has been created. The day after President Hassan's speech, on January 18, unidentified assailants in Mogadishu shot dead journalist Abdihared Osman, the fifth journalist from the Shabelle Media Network killed in 13 months. CPJ documented 12 journalist murders in Somalia in 2012, making the country the most dangerous in Africa for journalists.
CPJ research shows that not a single journalist murder has been prosecuted in Somalia over the past decade. CPJ ranked Somalia second worst on its 2012 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and the killers go free.
We ask that you urge President Hassan to follow through on his commitment to create a task force to investigate journalist murders. Such steps would hasten the progress toward tackling corruption and abuse and will sustain the development of a transparent and accountable system that would foster security and stability in the country.
In your meeting, we urge you to engage President Hassan on his administration's responsibility to respect freedom of the press and to bring the killers of journalists to justice. Journalists should be allowed to report freely on issues of public interest and should never face reprisal for their reporting. We trust that you will help us in bringing this matter to his attention.