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NUSOJ releases annual report on state of press freedom

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 7 January 2011 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today releases its annual report on the state of freedom of the press in Somalia in 2010, summarising major press freedom violations and challenges in the southern and central regions of Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland.

The yearly report, which describes cases of killings, arrests, injury, expulsion, death threats, imprisonment, looting of media houses, media houses taken over, court cases against journalists and journalists fleeing, arranges unequivocally the violations in the order of their occurrences.

The report, entitled "Mouth-murder" and Media Hijacking: A Year of Heartache and Fear for Somali Journalists, states that "most attacks against journalists have been attributed to Islamist armed forces, followed by the Puntland administration and their security forces and the transitional federal government."

"Killings of journalists have been a source of terrible pain in the hearts of journalists especially in the conflict-ravaged city of Mogadishu, which is still where most journalists were murdered in our beloved country," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

NUSOJ noted that since killing journalists has not been entirely effective in silencing independent journalism, the armed Islamist groups, al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, have resorted to seizing private media houses from their legitimate owners, taking over a total of seven media houses to use them for war propaganda and hate campaigns against those who fail to promote their ideology.

"Independent reporting is no longer possible from places such as Baidoa, Jowhar, Beledweyne, Bardhere and Kismayo," declared Omar Faruk. "People in these towns are therefore suffering a total blackout of independent news. In defiance of atrocities, Radio Shabelle continues to brave the deadly al-Shabaab and has moved to a new location to broadcast independently in the capital city."

With Islamists now in control of the majority of the southern and central regions, including most of the capital, "the suffering of the media is unmistakable." The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has failed to safeguard human rights, including the right to free expression and freedom of the press, NUSOJ stated.

"Young and unknown adults are increasingly appearing, claiming to be journalists but widely suspected to have another hidden and illicit agenda. This is another emerging threat to press freedom that reduces the space for professional and genuine journalists to operate," said Omar Faruk Osman.

NUSOJ notes that Puntland, a semi-autonomous state in the northeast, has been experiencing a worsening press freedom climate. "The Puntland administration has increased suppression and attacks against journalists and the independent media in the last six months," said Burhan Ahmed, NUSOJ Puntland Coordinator. A special section was for the first time dedicated in the annual report to the situation in Puntland.

The impunity with which journalists are attacked fuels further terrible crimes against journalists while in Puntland the judiciary has been hugely compromised, NUSOJ states. A lack of the rule of law in the southern regions continues to put the lives of journalists in danger. There are similar problems in Puntland, where police and security agents operate at will with no respect for the work of journalists.

NUSOJ's concern is that as the period of the transitional government ends in August 2011 without a viable political and security solution for the country, armed power struggles may increase and politicians as well as armed groups will turn their guns on journalists who refuse to be cowed by their intimidation and manipulation.

Click on the following link to read the report:
NUSOJ_Annual_REPORT_2010.pdf (2605 KB)

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