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Culture of impunity, safety of journalists the central themes of journalists' conference

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The journalists of Somalia are committed to the mission of journalism and the duty of journalists to be independent, to report the truth and to serve the whole community, but these ambitions are constantly frustrated by the appalling conditions in which media are forced to operate including political manipulation and conditions of social neglect as stated in the final declaration adopted by the National Somali Journalists Conference organised by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in co-operation with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), held in Nairobi from July 24-26, 2009.

Somali media professionals declared, "that there can be no peace or democratic development in Somalia or in the wider region so long as journalism is practised in conditions of fear, insecurity and corruption."

More than 60 journalists and media executives from Somalia's mainstream media once again denounced "most strongly all those who sponsor violence, oppression and tyranny against Somali people, especially media and journalists."

Culture of impunity and safety of journalists in Somalia were central at the conference, which was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, and the conference appealed "to all sides in the conflict in Somalia to respect international law and human rights and particularly the rights of journalists and media to work freely."

In the adopted text, the conference rejected "absolutely the culture of terrorism and violence and recognises the need for initiatives, including by media professionals, to counter the use of media, directly or indirectly, to incite violence and hate."

During the three-day conference, the meeting considered:

- The crisis of safety and insecurity of journalists in Somalia
- The challenges facing journalists and media seeking to work in an ethical professional manner
- The specific role of Somali journalists in inflaming or easing the violence
- The scope of media regulation and actions needed to strengthen media and journalism in Somalia
- Decent working conditions: the foundation for quality journalism and solidarity

Testimonies were heard from some media who have been victims of targeted violence and panels were held to discuss in detail practical actions and programmes that could be developed to further assist Somali journalists and media and to build solidarity and co-operation among journalists and media in the Horn of Africa.

Arising from these discussions the conference adopted an action plan calling for new initiatives supported by the international journalists' community that could ease the crisis facing journalists, provide more security and safety for journalists and contribute to building new networks of co-operation within the region.

The action plan focuses on:

1. Safety of journalists
2. Conflict-sensitive reporting
3. Media accountability
4. Social Dialogue
5. Solidarity with Somali journalists and media
6. Seeking Justice
7. Regional Co-operation

The conference resolved "that it is urgent to organise a roundtable for independent media and journalists in Somalia and other countries from the Horn of Africa to support standards for professional and journalistic excellence and editorial independence and to examine the role of media and journalism in promoting peaceful co-existence and building peace and conditions for democracy and economic and social development."

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