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NUSOJ denounces dismal safety situation for journalists, artists

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The following is a joint statement by NUSOJ, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and the Somali-Speaking Center of International PEN:

JOINT STATEMENT BY EAST AND HORN OF AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NETWORK, SOMALI-SPEAKING CENTER OF INTERNATIONAL PEN AND NATIONAL UNION OF SOMALI JOURNALISTS

Djibouti, April 16, 2008

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net), Somali-Speaking Center of International PEN and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today organized jointly a Solidarity Event in Djibouti to provide financial assistance from the National Endowment for Democracy, through EHAHRD-Net, to Somali journalists who fled to Djibouti from the violence in Somalia.

The three Organizations are profoundly concerned about the dangerous press freedom situation that allows the killing, injuring, jailing and intimidation of journalists in Somalia.

Each year the attacks on press freedom come from different opposing sides and new sacrifices are made by those in the forefront such as reporters, photographers and cameramen. Somali Journalists are constantly under fire within a growing culture of impunity.

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists, so far this year one journalist was murdered, two journalists were seriously injured, five journalists were arbitrarily arrested in separate times, while four media houses were closed down and robbed. Journalists incessantly face Death threats, censorship and intimidations. One journalist is still being detained in Mogadishu.

EHAHRD-Net, Somali-Speaking PEN and NUSOJ denounce unrelenting attacks against journalists in strongest terms possible and demand the end of crimes against journalists. When journalists are working in an environment of fear, daily threats to their life and censorship, freedom of the press and fundamental human rights are knowingly violated.

The right to a free press is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which obviously states that the right to freedom of opinion and expression includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Because of the scale and the gravity of the rising violations, Somali journalists are facing one of their hardest challenges ever. Each year, more and more journalists have been targeted, brutalized and done to death in almost every region of the country.

Many journalists have to abandon their families and home country, and sometimes even their profession in order to save their lives. The three organizations are extremely disturbed by recurrent attempts to harass and terrorize journalists and limit their professional freedom.

NUSOJ, Somali-Speaking Center of International PEN and EHAHRD-Net are worried about precarious working conditions of journalists which also threaten quality of journalism, principles of press freedom, human rights, the welfare of journalists & other media workers, respect for democratic values and good governance.

The recent tragic death of two prominent and respected artists, Ahmed Nur Jangow and Abullahi Amir Roble, highlight the plight of the Somali Creative Community and their multifaceted suffering since the onset of the continuing violent conflict and chaos in Somalia.

The three press freedom and human rights organizations are troubled by the brutalities against Somali singers, comedians and actors and their poor living standards. Somali artists lack the fundamental right to life.

Members of the Somali Creative Community, including artists, writers and journalists, who remain inside the country - because they are either unable to flee or have chosen not to do so - are continually faced by targeted killings, intimidation and detention by all sides in the Somali conflict who are disparately seeking to control, stifle and manipulate information.

Somali artists are poorly organized and resourced to speak for themselves. Poor working conditions of singers and comedians are major impediments to their ability to work professionally and advocate for their rights. Their freedom of expression and the right to be informed are furthermore infringed and ignored. The organizations vehemently condemn these aggressions.

Signed By:

1. Hassan Shire Sheik, Chairperson, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net)
2. Dr. Mohammed Dahir Afrah, President, Somali-Speaking Center of International PEN
3. Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General, National Union of Somali Journlaists (NUSOJ)

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