(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 18 January 2012 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today unveiled its Annual Report on the state of press freedom. The report is the result of extensive and systematic monitoring and documentation of incidents of attacks on journalists and media organisations in Somalia's south-central regions, and in territories controlled by Puntland and Somaliland.
The report, entitled “Lives and Rights of Journalists Under Threat”, records that 4 journalists were murdered, 7 journalists wounded, 19 journalists arbitrarily arrested, 7 media houses attacked, and at least 5 newspapers faced criminal defamation charges. NUSOJ consistently and intrepidly uncovered suppression of press freedom and journalists' rights throughout the year.
The year 2011 was worse than 2010. The targeting of journalists was politically-motivated and systemic, and more journalists were victimized through arrests, beatings, harassment, trumped-up criminal proceedings, and even killing.
“In bold defiance of fear and injustice, with a laudable commitment to freedom and justice, journalists continued to speak out to tell the story of Somalis, give voice to the voiceless, and defend their fundamental rights and freedoms in the face of deadly bullets, beatings, bellicose pressure, and over-officious and corrupt public institutions, including those of law enforcement,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary-General.
“Mogadishu continues to record the highest levels of attacks against journalists and news media organisations in the country. All four journalists murdered this year were slain in this troubled capital city, which also saw the most serious violations of press freedom,” said Abdi Aden Guled, NUSOJ Press Freedom Coordinator.
The year under review was darkened by a dangerous fight for control of what information reaches the public and by repression of media's critical voice. As seen in Puntland but more clearly in Somaliland, criminal defamation against journalists and media outlets has been the principle tool used against the media community to suppress the provision of independent information to the public and to pose a major threat to the practice of independent journalism.
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) emerged in 2011 as the worst predator of press freedom and perpetrator of violations of journalists' rights. Security forces, ministries and other elements within the TFG have been responsible for arrests of journalists, barring journalists from accessing news from areas within its control and offices, direct and indirect threats to journalists, undermining private media houses while promoting organs of propaganda, attempts to illegitimately take over the national journalists' union, restricting journalists' travel, maligning journalists' leaders and demanding money for personal benefit with the threat of serious repercussions for organizations that do not pay.
Somaliland authorities came in second place, after the TFG, in terms of numbers of press freedom violations committed, with more than a dozen editors and reporters either beaten, arbitrarily arrested or prosecuted for “criminal defamation”, “slander” or “false news”. Indeed, Somaliland took more journalists to court on criminal charges of defamation, slander or false news than any other authority in the history of the country.
Puntland came third in committing violations of press freedom in 2011, namely for the criminal prosecution of a journalist and suspension of journalists and media houses.
The annual report also demonstrates how authorities in these northeastern regions failed to promptly investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of attacks against media houses.
“NUSOJ considers impunity the foremost, albeit silent, enemy of journalists and press freedom. The union strongly affirms to the Somali authorities and the world community that the only substantial way to end threats, harassment and killings of journalists is to carry out impartial investigations to identify the perpetrators, including the intellectual authors, and to prosecute them, thus sending a clear signal that violence and persecution will be punished, regardless of motivation of the perpetrators or their political affiliation,” says the report.
“Poor working conditions, caused, to a significant extent, by the poor financial capacity of the private media houses which employ the majority of working journalists, continue to be a discernable threat to the growth of professional journalism and press freedom,” said Abdiqani Sheik Mohamed, NUSOJ Organising Secretary.
NUSOJ calls on the international community to make their support of and cooperation with Somali authorities conditional on their respecting and protecting fundamental rights of journalists, and of the people of Somalia in general, particularly the right to freedom of expression and the associated freedom of association, which are the basis for the exercise of all other human rights, as well as for the restoration of the rule of law and state-building.
“We can see that personal contacts and private diplomatic discussions are no longer effective when violations are multiplying and blatantly flaunted in the face of the world community. In most cases, such efforts do not generate pressure for change. The international community should stand firm against abusive government officials and rogue elements and openly express their criticism to preserve human rights values,” declared Osman.
NUSOJ appeals to the TFG, Somaliland and Puntland authorities:
1) To adopt and implement a consistent policy of zero-tolerance for crimes against journalists and media organizations as the only way to ensure reliable practice to respect, protect, defend and promote press freedom.
2) To bring police and other security forces under control by immediately stopping the harassment, brutality, arbitrary arrests, and even killing regularly perpetrated against journalists and media organisations and to ensure full accountability for previous violations.
3) To promptly cease violations of journalists' right to freedom of association and to stop threats of criminal prosecution against journalists, including their organisations and leaders.
Click here to read the report:
NUSOJ_Annual_Report_2012.pdf (2198 KB)