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NUSOJ marks Human Rights Day with report on the misery of the country's journalists

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 10 December 2010 - To mark International Human Rights Day, on 10 December 2010, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today releases a groundbreaking report exposing the precarious working conditions endured by journalists in Somalia.

The nationwide survey reveals how the human rights of working journalists, particularly their labour rights, are grossly violated by every company and in every corner of the Horn of Africa country.

"Every time we hear of journalists arrested, threatened or even killed by rogue elements or armed political groups, the blame is shifted onto the journalists themselves, who have supposedly been unprofessional or taken needless risks that jeopardise their security", said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General

"Journalists are expected to be the ears, eyes and messengers of the people of Somalia, yet they are the most disadvantaged workers in the media industry whose human rights at work are massively trampled on."

"Media workers are among the most over-worked, most exploited and most abused", says the report, entitled, "The Untold Tales of Misery: Somali Journalists and their Precarious Work".

The unsafe working conditions the report reveals show journalists forced into inhumane situations that do not meet international labour standards. Journalists working for international media organisations as stringers in the country are often discriminated against and are not treated or employed on the same terms as their foreign counterparts.

"Media owners, both Somali and foreigners, are exploiting the rights of working journalists by using the excuse of lawlessness, armed conflict and reduced income for local media houses not to pay decent salaries. We see them recruiting young journalists only on the promise of using their by-line, but without payment or benefits or labour rights entitlements. This parasitical treatment of these promising young journalists is a gross human rights violation and these inhuman and despicable conditions of work must be stopped", added Osman.

Poverty suffered by journalists has also fuelled corruption and professional misconduct. The report reveals that "Corruption in the media field is also an ongoing problem", finding "instances of "Sharuur, Duub, Children's Milk, or Transportation", all local slang terms for payoffs to journalists or media houses for positive news coverage. In some cases media house owners encourage newsmakers, business owners, or politicians to pay to keep a friendly reporter on staff at the media house."

"This situation has pushed journalists into resigning from the profession because they can barely earn a living from it and run personal safety risks", Osman said. "This deep misery and unacceptable social injustice need to be reversed swiftly so that members of the fourth estate can exercise their profession without corruption and exploitation by newsmakers who are eager to manipulate news to suit their opposing interests".

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed the Report. "The survey by NUSOJ is a welcome eye-opener on the treatment of journalists in Somalia. The global community of journalists has for many years focused on the unremitting violence and its impact on the safety of journalists, but for the first time, the report 'The Untold Tales of Misery' lifts the veil on the conditions under which journalists work, their numbers, social conditions and precarity," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

"With no employment contracts, hardly any training and poverty salaries and benefits, Somali journalists make one of the most exploited workforces working in one of the most dangerous places in the world. The IFJ fully supports the call by NUSOJ for the ILO to act swiftly in developing an urgent programme for Somalia that will help journalists secure dignity at work, improve their working conditions and bolster their status underpinned by international labour standards," added Boumelha.

Women journalists "earn less than their male counterparts and suffer unequal treatment in many other respects. There is prevalent isolation and sexual abuse of female journalists in the media. Women journalists are sidelined from 'hard news' reporting and forced into 'soft' work such as advertising and public relations instead of doing the same work as their male colleagues."

NUSOJ, the first independent trade union established in Somalia since the fall of the military government, is making a set of recommendations to the authorities governing the different territories of Somalia, to media employers, the International Labour Organization and the world community.

"We want urgent social dialogue, legal protection and full respect for the labour rights of journalists. Political powers protecting commercial interests at the expense of hard working and starving journalists must be brought to an end", Osman concluded.

Click here to read the report

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