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NUSOJ receives French Republic's human rights prize

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 10 December 2009 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) was today (10 December 2009) declared the winner of the French Republic's "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" human rights prize in recognition of its courageous pursuit of defending press freedom and freedom of expression, and seeking justice for victims of free speech and free expression violations in Somalia.

The French Ambassador to Kenya, H. E Mrs Elisabeth Barbier, handed over the award to NUSOJ secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman at a ceremony attended by Somali journalists and representatives of the international community. According to the ambassador, the Somali journalists' union has been playing a leading role in the promotion and protection of journalists' rights, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and seeking justice to address extensive impunity that fuels gross human violations in Somalia. The award administrators said NUSOJ was guided by a professional commitment to the journalism profession, solidarity and safety.

"On the behalf of the National Union of Somali Journalists, I feel greatly honoured and humbled that despite the difficulties with which we have often carried out our work, somebody somewhere has been watching and appreciating this work even in the face of enormous challenges, including extremely difficult working conditions and the suffering of journalists," Osman said.

He said the award was both historic and symbolic for NUSOJ because it was being given on the day the world community was commemorating International Human Rights Day. "It is also historic to us because today marks the 7th day (exactly one week) since three of our journalist colleagues, as well as medical doctors, students and ministers were killed in yet another bloody attack by enemies of human rights and peace in Mogadishu, Somalia," Osman added.

"We at NUSOJ not only feel emboldened by this gesture to fight harder against rights violations, but also welcome whole-heartedly all the efforts aimed at addressing the problems of impunity in our country, including violations of free speech, freedom of the media, freedom of association and the attendant violence visited upon innocent citizens of Somalia and the state of insecurity our journalists operate in," he said.

NUSOJ called on the world community to step up their efforts in the search for peace and justice in Somalia. "Peace cannot be achieved without seeking justice and accountability. The Somali community is pleading for your support, for your solidarity and for your intervention. Each day, they are crying for justice and yearning for peace and stability," the secretary-general added.

The French Republic's liberty, equality, fraternity human rights prize, established in 1988 and endowed by the Prime Minister of the French Government, is awarded annually by the National Consultative Commission of Human Rights. It is conferred in Paris, or as appropriate in the prize winner's home country, on 10 December each year on the occasion of Human Rights Day, proclaimed by the United Nations.

The prize distinguishes field work and projects dealing with the practical defence and furtherance of human rights, in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Five winners are chosen every year by an independent jury.

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