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Press situation deteriorated dramatically in 2007, shows NUSOJ annual report

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The following is a 30 December 2007 NUSOJ press release:

Targeting Truth Tellers: Journalism in a Climate of Fear and Intimidation
Annual Report of Press Freedom Violations

The freedom of the press situation in Somalia deteriorated considerably in 2007, as violence against journalists and media workers - such as killings, detentions, acts of intimidation, harassment and other forms of attack - increased unabated in comparison to previous years, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) said in its 2007 Annual Report of Press Freedom Violations.

The Annual Report, "Targeting Truth Tellers: Journalism in a Climate of Fear and Intimidation", documents cases of media people killed, injured, arrested, robbed, intimidated, expelled, kidnapped, beaten and censored during 2007. The report also covers cases of media houses closed down, attacked and banned.

"Journalists became victims of the increasing conflict and insecurity that has plagued Somalia for 17 years" said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "Somali journalists constantly face attack, while those who intimidate journalists benefit from impunity from prosecution," Faruk added.

In 2007, eight media workers were killed as a result of antagonistic action and one died by accident; four media workers were wounded; 53 media workers were arrested; five media houses were closed down; and more than 55 journalists fled the country. Scores of journalists and media workers were intimidated and robbed. In addition, many journalists were verbally abused by members of political groups.

"Violations of press freedom increased 85 percent compared to the previous year. Several attacks against journalists' rights and freedom of the press happened and were not reported because of the victims' fear of reprisal", Faruk declared.

Consequently, Somalia turned into the deadliest country for journalists in Africa and the second most dangerous one for media professionals in the world. Safety of media professionals depends on the general situation of the country, but their journalistic work singles them out and raises the dangers they are exposed to. "Journalists are ordinary people, have no special defences and are frontline targets" Faruk said.

As the targeted attacks against journalists and other violations of press freedom increase horrifically, still media professionals are not safe anywhere in country. "Lack of prompt, thorough and impartial investigations perpetuate an entrenched culture of impunity," Faruk said.

"Hostility and threats against Somali journalists have cultivated an environment of terror and insecurity that slowed down independent journalism and promoted self-censorship as a form of protection. Significant numbers of journalists chose to work in secret. Many journalists are also victims of the political slant of the news media organisations that they work for. Through protest and solidarity actions and the publication of this report, NUSOJ challenges those that violate press freedom and fundamental human rights of journalists in Somalia," Faruk added.

NUSOJ remains steadfast in its mission to defend and promote journalists' rights and freedom of the press. It boldly speaks out on behalf of Somali journalists, especially those who are in risk.

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