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Somali Government has to tackle the long-standing legacy of impunity for crimes against journalists, says NUSOJ

(Statement on International Day to End Impunity of Crimes against Journalists)

 
2 November 2014

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity of Crimes against Journalists (2 November 2014), The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is appealing to the federal government of Somalia to institute a series of measures to break the culture of impunity which has persisted for many years, and which was a major factor in the wave of politically motivated deadly violence against Somali journalists.

NUSOJ is issuing this statement today to draw attention to the importance of addressing the long-standing problem of impunity for crimes against journalists in Somalia and to boost the efforts to build a culture of accountability.

The on-going media crisis is characterised by a series of politically-motivated violations of the right to life and the right to freedom of expression of journalists and other media practitioners. Those who prompted or committed these crimes are enjoying almost total impunity.

53 journalists and other media practitioners were murdered in Somalia since 2006, according to the union’s database. With no law and order – indeed no functioning government in many years – in much of the country, the perpetrators of these atrocious crimes against journalists have been able to act with impunity. This impunity has also fostered an alarming increase recently in the rate of media rights violations.

The arrest, trial and sentencing of the killers of two journalists in 2013 and 2014 is glimmer of hope but 51 cases remain unresolved. While welcoming actions taken against Al-shabaab killers of journalists, the union expresses concern of the alleged release of suspected journalist killers.

The existing impunity is the total failure to bring perpetrators of crimes against journalists to justice. It denies the victim journalists their right to justice and redress. Most of the killers of journalists are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to them being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties.

Despite Somalia’s legal obligations to tackle impunity, the people who have committed crimes against journalists since 2006, and most recently, have not been made to account for their actions. In particular those in political positions have faced no investigation, prosecution or censure. On the contrary, they appear to have been encouraged to commit further violations by the failure of the different governments of Somalia to take action against perpetrators of crimes against journalists.

“The victims of media freedom violations, specially families of killed journalists, are demanding justice for the crimes they have suffered – and they deserve no less than that,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “Those responsible for crimes against journalists must be brought to justice”.

The union is also concerned about the culture of impunity which permeates the Federal Government of Somalia where some public officials abuse their power and violate fundamental rights of journalists including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. The union witnessed and documented a series of rights violations by government officials and they get away with their violations without accountability.

NUSOJ strongly believes that there can be no successful transition for democratic governance and just rule of law without deliberate government measures to break the culture of impunity, starting from ending power abuse by some government officials.

The failure to ensure justice for victim journalists prolongs and intensifies the pain felt by the journalists’ community and their families. It also effectively gives a green light to the perpetrators to continue. The federal government of Somalia and the regional states have an obligation under national and international law to ensure the right of victims of media rights violations to an effective remedy.