Somalia: FESOJ Joins the World in Commemorating the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) expresses its deep concerns over the high levels of violence against journalists in Somalia

The commemoration event held in Mogadishu was jointly organized by FESOJ together with National Coordination Commission for the Safety of Journalists and supported by Free Press Unlimited and UNESCO in the presence of officials from the Federal Ministries of Information and Internal Security.

Speaking on the occasion of November 2,2019, the Secretary General of Federation of Somali Journalists FESOJ Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu said "High level of violence and threats against journalists in Somalia is deeply worrying. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of the Somali people and a cornerstone for a democracy. It must be respected by all parties. I call on the Government of Somalia to follow up thoroughly on each case of violence against journalists and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. There cannot be impunity. A safe working environment for all those working in the media must be ensured"

The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism of the Federal Government of Somalia Mohamed Abdi Hayir Maareeye who was addressing at the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists said "Somali Government is committed to safeguarding & the protection of the Somali journalists and media; it is the policy of the government as a whole and that is why we are working on laws that protect journalists and the media"

Somalia's State of Impunity 2019.

The year 2019 has been another bloody year for journalists and media workers in Somalia. Since November last year 2018 4 journalists were killed, 12 were physically tortured and wounded, 5 media outlets were attacked 41 were arbitrarily arrested in different parts of Somalia.

CPJ released the 2019 edition of its annual Global Impunity Index this week, which lists the worst countries in the world at prosecuting murderers of journalists. Somalia tops the list for the fifth year in a row

All four journalists were killed in bombings in buildings or places attacked by extremist groups and no one was specifically targeted.

Among the four journalists killed was Awil Dahir Salad, a veteran broadcast journalist. He was one of at least 26 people who died on December 22, 2018, in twin bomb attacks in Mogadishu. Awil, the host of a popular political debate show on the privately-owned Universal TV, died alongside three of his colleagues--a driver and two bodyguards.

Awil Dahir , 45, had worked as a journalist since the 1980s, when he joined the state-owned Radio Mogadishu. He worked for Universal TV in various capacities since 2005, including as a news anchor and as deputy general director of the London-based station. Awil who was a Somali-Brtish frequently used to travel with bodyguards out of concern that his high-profile job put him at risk of attack.

A prominent Somali Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh who among 27 people killed in a terrorist attack in Somalia's southern port city of Kismayo on Friday 12 July ,2019. Another local journalist Mohamed Sahal Omar and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman also died in the same attack.

Hodan spent her life devoted to serving the Somali people and reporting on positive, uplifting stories. Her dedicated mission was to spread light and love to the Somali world through her work in journalism. She died serving the Somali community everywhere and doing what she loved most. She brought inspiration and hope to the Somali people through storytelling.

Abdinasir Abdulle Gacal a young cameraman who worked with Somali National Television and Army radio was killed on Aug 14, 2019 during fighting between Somali national army and Al-Shabab in the village of Awdhiigle, around 45 KM South to the Somali capital Mogadishu while embedded with Somali Armies in the frontlines.

Abdinasir was among several people killed in suicide blast targeted to Somali government soldiers" base

Physical threats

There are growing concerns about journalists being physically assaulted. A resilient insurgency and a climate of impunity make the country one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. Statistics compiled by the Federation of Somali Journalists reveal that journalists were either attacked or threatened at least 34 times in the first half of 2019.

"Journalists who try to expose the wrongdoings of politicians, insurgents or other powerful individuals are threatened, beaten and even attacked, and this limits their ability to conduct in-depth reporting.

Despite its rapid growth of Somalia's media industry, Somali media continues to face many challenges such as attacks on journalists and political interference that threaten to undo the progress made over the past decade.

Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The provisional federal constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, but neither Federal Government nor Federal Member States respected this right. Individuals in government-controlled areas or Federal Member States risked reprisal for criticizing government officials, particularly for alleged official corruption or suggestions that officials were unable to manage security matters. They cite as national security concerns to suppress criticism and prevent press coverage of opposition political figures.

Threats to journalists, however, come not only from the Shabaab and criminals, but also increasingly from government troops. "Of particular concern was the growing number of cases where the attacks implicated government officers, including members of the Somali security forces

Online harassment against journalists increasing

While the internet is an effective communication tool, there is growing concern about online harassment faced by Somali journalists.

There are women and men journalists who were harassed and attacked after they provided valuable information and investigative reports to the public. There are journalists whom their social media platforms were totally halted or suspended

Al-Shabaab prohibited companies from providing access to the internet and forced telecommunication companies to shut data services in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

Some authorities have forced private Internet providers to shut down some websites that they don't like in their reports despite based on facts.

Small achievements in the year 2019

Somalia has made small progress in ensuring the right to freedom of expression but needs to do more to end the challenges that remain - including killings, beatings, harassment, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, lack of due process or fair trial and the closure of media outlets

In 2019 Somalia had also witnessed a number of achievements in the area of security of journalists.

Somalia Military Tribunal issued on 1 November 2018 a verdict which found police man, Abdullahi Ahmed Nur guilty of murdering journalist Abdirisak Qasim Iman, cameraman and reporter for Somali Broadcasting Service. The court sentenced the convicted killer to five year jail and ordered him to compensate 100 camels to the family of the late journalist. Abdirisak Qasim Iman was murdered on 26 July 2018 in Hamarjabab neighborhood in Mogadishu while heading to his station. A rare positive step towards ending impunity for crimes against journalists in Somalia.

During the year there were also two other cases in which government soldier who deliberately tortured journalists were arrested and brought to justice.

Somalia Launched the Multi-Stakeholder Forum for Safety of Journalists in late 2018 with the support of UNESCO.

The security mechanism led by the eleven-person National Coordination Commission for the Safety of Journalists consists of four representatives from media associations, four from the government and four from civil society.

In 2019 with the support of the European Union's Office for Somalia through the Free Press Unlimited, held two peace councils in Mogadishu. Attended by senior security officials, the Justice, Journalists and the Ministry of Information and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Somalia, aiming to raise awareness among security agencies, national authorities and institutions, the civil society for the rule of law and the This is the first step in the fight against terrorism and terrorism.

With the support of International Media Support (IMS) it was implemented the formation Safety Mechanism for Somali Journalists ( SMSJ) in which has representatives across Somalia to work for the documentation of all sorts of violations against journalists, organize advocacy campaigns and help journalists who experience and come across abuses while doing their journalism work.

FESOJ calls upon the Somali government leaders to change their positive remarks into actions and end the harassment against journalists and illegal arrests.

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