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NUSOJ holds forum on safety and ethics in a war zone

NUSOJ and international free expression advocates gather at Nairobi conference
NUSOJ and international free expression advocates gather at Nairobi conference

NUSOJ

Journalists, media executives and Somali and international free expression advocates gathered this past weekend to encourage each other and strategise amid the ever-present threats of torture, kidnapping, political intimidation and death that fact finders in Somalia face.

More than 60 individuals attended the three-day conference in Nairobi, Kenya from 24 to 26 July, which was entitled "Professional Journalism: Responsibility in a Situation of Violence and Insecurity". The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) organised the conference, with support from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Norwegian foreign ministry.

The safety of journalists and the culture of impunity for murderers of media workers was a foremost concern of participants, who heard first-hand testimonies from journalists who have suffered police or warlord brutality. The power the media can wield, in its ability to either inflame violence or advance democratic and peaceful values, was also a major discussion topic.

Many of the panel speakers put forth ideas about how to build solidarity among journalists and human rights initiatives in the Horn of Africa and globally. Conference speakers also highlighted the need for a set of ethical standards for journalists operating in the war zone.

While most killings of journalists in 2009 have occurred in and around Mogadishu, the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland has garnered attention for serious press freedom violations ahead of its September presidential elections.

Mohamed Osman Mire and Ahmed Suleyman Dhuhul, director and editor of Radio Horyaal, were arrested on 13 July and remain imprisoned in Somaliland's capital of Hargeisa. NUSOJ, the International Press Institute (IPI), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported the arrests came after the station aired the audio of a dispute between Somaliland President Dahir Rayale Kahin and elders of Galibey town, who were upset over the President's failure to implement the clan's court-recognised land rights. Inter-clan violence broke out the day after the dispute and four people were killed near the border of Galibey and Awdal provinces. Two days later, HCTV station was banned for airing footage of the violence.

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