The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today joins journalists, human rights advocates and citizens around the world in celebrating International Human Rights Day. December 10 is an occasion to celebrate human rights victories over the past year and to focus attention and pressure on our Federal government and Regional States to address human rights violations.
In 2016 Somali journalists witnessed severe violation of their basic rights as they faced threats, verbal and physical assault, arbitrary detention, criminal charges and even murder.
NUSOJ condemns the human rights violations committed against journalists in Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa, Galkayo, Beledweyne, Garowe, Las Anod, Hargeisa, Jowhar and Borame who were attacked with impunity in this year for doing their job and exercising their right to freedom of expression. The union urges the federal government and other regional authorities to hold accountable the perpetrators.
This is of exigency considering that more than four years after the coming into being of Federal Government of Somalia, the country is still to align a plethora of laws that infringe on journalists’ human rights, media freedom, freedom of expression and the right to access to information.
The media law which was signed into law in January 2016 fails to comply with the provisional Constitution of Somalia and does not meet Somalia’s international standards of freedom of expression. It is unnecessary and unjustified law if Somalia is to successfully transition to democracy and should therefore be repealed in line with the principles of the African Charter on Human Rights, Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, African Charter on Broadcasting and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The criminal legislative framework remains clogged with criminal defamation offences in breach of the right to the exercise of freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
This is despite the fact that Somalia’s provisional Constitution has a comprehensive Bill of Rights which has been hailed as meeting international, continental and regional instruments through its explicit guarantees on, among others, media freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and access to information.
“It is our firm position that the prevailing restrictive media environment is the result of lack of respect for constitutional provisions that explicitly guarantee media freedom, citizens’ right to access to information and necessitates the establishment of an independent media regulatory body,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
“It is incumbent upon the new government to complement the progressive provisions of the Constitution by repealing or amending the country’s criminal defamation, insult and publication and communication of false news legal provisions. These laws impinge on fundamental human rights such as media freedom, freedom of expression, free expression online, free flow of information and citizens’ right to access to information” added Osman.
A free and unfettered media plays a critical role in advancing citizens’ universal right to access to information held by both public and private bodies and is a panacea to socio-economic development, accountable governance and political stability. The Federal Government failed to enact access to information law as stipulated by Article 32 of provisional constitution.
For over 10 years NUSOJ has worked to promote the fundamental right of freedom of expression, journalists’ and access to information throughout Somalia, and the union remains committed to fighting for a safe environment conducive to the unimpeded exercise of these rights by journalists.