Reporters Without Borders addressed an open letter today to Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon calling for the decriminalization of media offences and measures to protect journalists.
With 18 journalists killed in 2012, Somalia is Africa's deadliest country for media personnel and is ranked 175th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, down 11 places from its position in the previous year's index.
Here is the text of the letter:
His Excellency Abdi Farah Shirdon
Paris, 7 February 2013
Subject: Reforms needed for freedom of information in Somalia
Dear Prime Minister Shirdon,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to share with you its concerns about the actions of the Somali authorities on matters affecting journalists.
The imposition of a one-year jail sentence on the journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim for reasons connected to his work is a disappointing sign as regards the commitment that your government gave to guarantee freedom of information.
As you said, a free press is "the heart of every democracy and is guaranteed by the new constitution." But democracy will not be able to flower if journalists are liable to be jailed in connection with their work. Media offences must be decriminalized without delay if Somalia is to enjoy freedom of information and its benefits.
Last year was a particularly difficult one for Somali journalists. Somalia fell 11 places in the latest Reporters Without Borders press index and is now ranked 175th out of 179 countries. A total of 18 journalists were killed in bombings or targeted murders in 2012, making it the deadliest year in the Somali media's history.
The vulnerability of journalists is reinforced by the failure to punish those responsible for the crimes against them. No investigation has so far been conducted into any of last year's 18 murders. As reform of the police and judicial authorities is one of your government's announced priorities, we urge you to quickly adopt significant measures to combat this impunity and to protect journalists.
The decriminalization of media offences and the protection of journalists would enable Somalia to face the human rights and development challenges ahead with the credibility that democracies derive from their ability to guarantee freedom of information. Your government's recent statements allow us to hope that 2013 will see a renewal of human rights and media freedom in Somalia.