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Ministry of Information halts Conference on Impunity, NUSOJ Condemns New Restrictions on Freedoms of Assembly, Expression

4 November 2014 

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns new, severe restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression by the Minister of Information of Somalia Mustaf Sheikh Ali Dhuhulow who ordered security forces to stop a conference on impunity of crimes against journalists, which was organized on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity of Crimes against Journalists.
 
NUSOJ in partnership with the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) and with the support of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) organised a two-day conference in Mogadishu on 1-2 November. 58 journalists, editors and other media practitioners turned out to attend the conference. Lawyers, judiciary officials and officials from the Ministries of Justice, Human Rights and Labour were officially invited and agreed to attend. Two representatives from AFEX and IFEX arrived Mogadishu to attend the conference.
 
The Minister’s decision has come not through an official communication following due and legal procedure, but through the National Security and Intelligence Agency who came to the conference venue and ordered the meeting to halt.
 
Security officials who came to the venue informed NUSOJ and the hotel management that the meeting must not take place because there are foreigners who are a “threat to the government” and they came in the country “illegally”, and the Ministry of Information did not approve the meeting.
 
On 18 October 2014, NUSOJ wrote to the Ministry of National Security, informing it about the conference and seeking security approval and on-arrival visa. On the same day, the Ministry approved NUSOJ’s request and instructed the Immigration to issue on-arrival visa for the union’s guests. On 20 October, Director of Immigration and Naturalization issued a letter in which it stated that the 2 representatives’ visas is approved and will be issued on arrival at Mogadishu international airport.
 
When the delegation landed at Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport, Immigration authorities asked NUSOJ to provide a letter of guarantee, which the union promptly submitted to the authorities and visiting guests were subsequently given their visas.
 
This clearly demonstrates that NUSOJ followed all right channels and secured necessary approvals for the visiting delegation to arrive Mogadishu and attend the conference.
 
NUSOJ branded the halt of the conference as arbitrary and a serious violation of freedoms of assembly, association and expression. The provisional Constitution of Somalia guarantees amongst other fundamental rights the right to freedom of speech and expression; the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association which mandates the Somali authorities, including security forces, to protect those rights. If any government authority halts conference or government officials order to stop or sabotage such rightful activity he violates the Constitution.
 
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Somalia accessed in 1990, protects the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression. 
 
“Such intensification of restrictions on journalists at this crucial time will surely be viewed as an undemocratic effort to eliminate the independent voices of journalists community. We call on the Ministry of Information to immediately end such unconstitutional, unlawful and undemocratic actions and stop all initiatives aimed towards restricting freedoms of assembly, association and expression of journalists or media practitioners,” said Abdirisak Omar Ismail, President of Supreme Council of NUSOJ.
 
It is high time for security forces to show maturity by respecting all fundamental freedoms of the citizens and leave in a noble profession, Security forces should promote integrity instead of violation and disrespect to the human rights of the Somali people by applying the law accordingly.
 
Security forces should be upholding basic rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and free expression, not undermining them. NUSOJ and its membership are undeterred in exercising their constitutional and democratic rights. 
 
“The Federal Government of Somalia, particularly the Ministry of Information, cannot be allowed to violate with impunity its obligation to uphold international law nor attack the very citizens it has sworn to protect without consequences,” stressed NUSOJ supreme council president.
 
Investigations should be conducted promptly, thoroughly, and transparently, providing NUSOJ and the public with as much information as possible on the stopping of this conference. 
 
The visiting delegation from AFEX voluntarily left Mogadishu on 3 November as originally scheduled.