Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) submits Communications to the United Nation's Independent Expert on Human Rights in Somalia, Human Rights Council, and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression concerning the attacks on journalism in Somalia.
The Somali Journalists Syndicate ("SJS") has instructed international human rights barrister Michael Polak of Church Court Chambers and Director of Justice Abroad to submit formal communications and complaints with United Nation's Bodies for the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, the Human Rights Council, and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression regarding the attacks against journalists in Somalia and the failure to protect the right to Freedom of Expression which includes the right to receive information as well as the right to provide it.
The submissions which have been sent to the UN Bodies today, 20 August 2020, set out a range of acts which show that the Somali authorities have acted in breach of both their positive and negative obligations by attacking journalism through a number of acts and failing to protect journalists and create an environment conducive to freedom of expression within Somalia. The evidence presented to the UN bodies shows that the authorities are in breach of both their international obligations and obligations under the Somalian Constitution by:
▪ Imprisoning journalists simply for doing their jobs;
▪ Ordering the closure of television and radio stations;
▪ Confiscating journalist's equipment;
▪ Serious assault against journalists;
▪ Preventing or limiting access to official events and information;
▪ Forcing journalists to flee into exile;
▪ Passing the "Somali Media Bill" currently awaits Presidential assent which uses 'a litany of sweeping terminology and purposely vague phrases' to 'provide authorities unprecedented powers to arbitrarily target journalists for any reporting deemed critical of the government';
▪ The Online harassment of journalists by state actors;
▪ Creating an atmosphere by general intimidation, mistreatment, and attacks which does not allow the press to freely practise their trade and prevents the Somalian people from exercising their right to freely receive information;
▪ The prosecution of journalists, such as Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye, editor and deputy director of the privately owned Goobjoog Media Group for publishing on his personal Facebook page and on Gurbiye Official that the Government has mismanaged the COVID-19 response; and
▪ The enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of journalists including Radio Hiigsi editor, Mohamed Abduwahaab Nuur Abuuja's, who was unlawfully seized by the Security Police and held incommunicado without access to his lawyer or family from 7 March 2020 to 2 August 2020.
These communications call on the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, the Human Rights Council, and the Special Rapporteur for the Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression to require the Somalian authorities to:
▪ Allow press from all outlets to attend all governmental events or announcements;
▪ Allow access to the airwaves for radio and tv stations regardless of their position, dialect used, or style of reporting;
▪ Stop closing down or suspending the operation of newspapers;
▪ Cease Imprisoning journalists, both for short periods and for longer sentences simply for doing their jobs;
▪ Stop confiscating journalist's equipment or raiding their premises;
▪ Desist from assaulting, harassing, threatening journalists, or acting in any way which forces them to flee into exile;
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▪ Investigate the arrest and detention by the security forces and to discipline and prosecute those responsible for the unlawful detention of the following a large number of Somalian journalists;
▪ Investigate assaults carried out by the Police or security services, the seizure of journalistic equipment where this has taken place, and to prosecute the perpetrators and to return seized equipment from the individuals where this has been taken
▪ Investigate, discipline, and prosecute all state and non-state actors who make threats against journalists;
▪ Stop making anti-media public statements;
▪ Not to give assent to the Somali Media Bill which severely limits the ability of the media to freely report the news;
▪ Stop blocking website which publish news unfavourable to the authorities;
▪ Fully investigate the murders of Mohamed Omar Sahal, Hodan Nalayeh Said Yusuf Ali, and Abdiwali Ali Hassan (aka Abdiwali Onine) and hold those responsible to account;
▪ Investigate the closure of named press outlets, provide compensation for such closures, and allow their reopening and operation if they are still being prevented from operating:
▪ Stop making draconian orders seeking to influence which news items are covered and whether that coverage is favourable;
▪ Investigate the arbitrary detention and prosecute those responsible in regards to Radio Hiigsi editor Mohamed Abduwahaab Nuur Abuuja
▪ Immediately cease any remaining criminal prosecutions and set aside any convictions on his record, and end all harassment against Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye.
Annexed to the complaints was theSJS's comprehensive report which sets out the evidence in regards to the attacks on journalism in Somalia for 2019 as well as an annex showing that such behaviour continues in 2020 by the Somalian Government and Somaliland authorities.
Barrister Michael Polak stated:
_"The freedom of journalists to do their job without having to fear attacks and repression by the authorities is essential for the development of any country. The clear evidence shows that the Somalian Government and Somaliland authorities are failing to comply with their international and domestic legal obligations by continuing to attack, arbitrarily detain, and censure brave hardworking Somalian journalists. _
We hope that these communications to the United Nation's bodies, which have been set up specifically to protect people in situations where State authorities are refusing to do so, will shine a light on what is taking place against journalists in Somalia and inform the authorities that their actions are being noted both by the Somali people and the international community.
We call on the international community, including NGO's and Somalia's development partners, not to forget the importance of journalism in Somalia and the vulnerability of journalists there. It is our obligation to give them a voice at every opportunity and to demand that the authorities cease to breach their international obligations and the Constitution of Somalia.'
Mr Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) stated the following:
"Attacks against the press has dramatically increased leading many journalists to self-censor or face arbitrary arrests. Press freedom and freedom of expression are basic constitutional right entitled to every Somali citizen. These rights must be preserved and protected in order for the journalists and media stations to be able to freely inform the public.
SJS has documented the violations against the press across Somalia round the clock and what we have been witnessing, if not stopped, would put the whole journalism profession in danger. We call on the Somali federal government, federal member states and Somaliland authorities to stop the gross violations committed by their security forces, police and organs of their administrations."
An online launch has been held today at 2pm BST/4pm Somalia Time, which can be viewed here