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"Stop the bloodbath, protect journalists and free expression," UN Human Rights Council told

Panelists (left to right): Esther Busser (ITUC), Somalia Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Ismail, Omar Faruk Osman (NUSOJ), Jim Boumelha (IFJ) and Hélène Sackstein (RSF).
Panelists (left to right): Esther Busser (ITUC), Somalia Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Ismail, Omar Faruk Osman (NUSOJ), Jim Boumelha (IFJ) and Hélène Sackstein (RSF).

NUSOJ

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - March 4, 2012 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) joined the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF, Reporters Without Borders) at a side event held at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in highlighting the attacks on journalists' rights and freedom of expression in Somalia, and exposing the inability of the Somali authorities in preventing, investigating and punishing the perpetrators of crimes against journalists.

At this parallel event organized on March 2, 2012 in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Somali Republic to the United Nations in Geneva, speakers lifted the veil on the situation of freedom of expression in Somalia, which has progressively worsened after five journalists were murdered in Mogadishu since August 2011.

"In today's Somalia, journalists are targets of a widespread, often politically driven campaign of murder and maltreatment. Many have fled their homes, or even the country, to protect themselves and their families. There is now an urgent need to stop this bloodbath," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, who painted a grim picture of the state of freedom of expression and journalists' rights.

"The latest killings confirm the dismaying reality facing journalists in Somalia today, where intolerance and callous targeting sees prominent journalists gunned down at their homes," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Once again we will be looking to international institutions to take up their responsibility and protect journalists from this brutal injustice."

Speaker after speaker berated the inability of the Somali government's officials to defend journalists. Recent murders have put in doubt the recent claims of building peace and restoring stability made after the Somali conference in London. Journalists and trade union representatives laid bare the role by some government officials who were abusing their office and instead leading a campaign to suppress journalists and their right to free expression and association.

"The record of unsolved murders of journalists over the past few years and sustained attacks on the National Union of Somali Journalists by Somali authorities show their lack of urgency over the media safety crisis and the authorities' poor record on defending freedom of expression and journalists' rights," added Boumelha.

"The culture of impunity must be reined in urgently and accountability ensured. There is a need to inquire on the deaths of the various journalists killed in Somalia. Regrettably, the Transitional Government has proven to be incapable of investigating and prosecuting these killings even as doubts about its culpability have continued to grow amongst local journalists and media circles," said Esther Busser, Assistant Director of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) advocacy office at the UN in Geneva.

"Somalia's government has very seriously violated trade union rights, as enshrined in the ILO's Conventions 87 (on Freedom of Association) and 98 (on Collective Bargaining). The ITUC is extremely disturbed about the consistent politicised actions against NUSOJ members and its leadership to thwart them from carrying out their legitimate activities," added Busser.

"The murder of journalists in Somalia is not just a random act of violence in a conflict zone, it is a political act: by killing the messenger, you kill the message," said Hélène Sackstein, UN Advocacy Representative of RSF.

Participants concluded the meeting by rebutting the proclamation made by the Somali authorities to be investigating the killings and called on the UN Human Rights Council to set up an independent commission of inquiry into the murder of journalists in Somalia.

A high-level list of participants composed of UN and State officials, and leading human rights and free expression advocacy organizations attended the event.

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