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NUSOJ annual review of crimes against journalists

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 27 December 2011 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) declares today that the year 2011 was characterized by the worst possible perilous conditions for journalists operating in Somalia, as they were deliberately singled out for cruel and unjust treatment.

The year was stained with the blood of journalists and was worse than 2010 regarding all aspects of press freedom and the abusive quashing of the fundamental rights of journalists. Media professionals were the victims of the completely unrestrained and tyrannical use of weapons by security force personnel and public officials.

"The conditions in which journalists work reached a new crisis level in 2011. Journalists have increasingly become the victims of threats, deliberate violence, unfounded criminal proceedings, physical assaults and even heartless murders," said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman.

NUSOJ systematically and thoroughly documented in the past 12 months horrifying cases of killings, assaults, arrests, intimidation, harassment and judicial prosecutions of journalists. These frequent incidents took place primarily in Mogadishu, Bossasso, Galkayo, Hargeisa and Berbera. Media outlets were not spared from organised attacks.

In 2011, four journalists were murdered in Mogadishu, the only place where this most repulsive crime against journalists was committed. A further seven journalists were wounded, five in Mogadishu and two in Bossasso and Galkayo.

Nineteen journalists were arrested at the whim of the arresting officers, 96% without an arrest warrant and no official charges. Reporters, newscasters, camera operators, editors and directors have been among those victimised in this period. Seven media outlets have been targeted with aggressive, repressive and violent actions.

Mogadishu was the city where most of the violations and other attacks against journalists and media houses were carried out. Hargeisa came second in terms of violations, while Bossasso and Galkayo fell back to third place, although journalists in Galkayo have felt more unsafe than any other journalists in the Puntland regions.

While freedom of expression has been grossly violated, the corollary right of freedom of association has also been under serious threat. NUSOJ leaders have been subjected to intimidation tactics to prevent them from freely organizing and publicly promoting their positions on issues of violations. This has included mistreatment by authorities within the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) against the legitimate leaders and actions of the union. The leaders of the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) have come under intense pressure from the authorities in Hargeisa, culminating in the arbitrary arrest of the SOLJA's chairman.

Security forces under the command of political figures within the TFG are most frequently responsible for violating the rights of media outlets and media personnel. Somaliland ministers and prosecutors have been responsible for pursuing criminal proceedings against journalists and the privately-owned press, aided by arbitrary police arrests of journalists. The Puntland authorities came in third place in terms of violations of press freedom and the fundamental rights of journalists. Surprisingly, the Al-Shabaab militant group reduced its grip on journalists and perpetrated fewer attacks than the TFG forces, the Somaliland administration and the Puntland authorities, due to changes in its political base, armed forces and territorial space.

"Impunity is the silent enemy, fuelling an increase in danger and the number of incidents involving press freedom violations and violations of the fundamental rights of journalists. No matter whether they commit murder or threaten a journalist, the perpetrators know they will walk away free", added Osman.

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