The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is concerned with the non-conducive media environment characterized by bias and intolerance by some sections of the media, violations against media professionals in the course of their duties, compounded by unethical practices of some media houses and journalists.
A series of threats and attacks have been reported in the past 2 months, including assaults by security officers, supporters of candidates and members of the public towards journalists and media houses who are covering ongoing indirect elections of both upper and lower houses.
NUSOJ calls on the Attorney General and the Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT) to launch prompt and effective investigations into all cases of threats and intimidations against the media and to hold those responsible to account.
“It is very disturbing that as the country is going through indirect elections, cases of journalists being intimidated and threatened are growing. In the last two months alone, we have had twelve reported incidents of journalists being assaulted, threatened and intimidated while in the line of duty and media houses intimidated,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
The union has also spotted that some politicians have sought to prevent journalists from reporting on their election campaign or announcement of potential election candidature, as the media houses that they represented were not perceived to be supporting certain candidates.
NUSOJ calls on the politicians to denounce intimidations and threats against journalists and media houses, and to respect media freedom and recognize the public importance of journalists to ensure the flow of information during the election process.
There are serious allegations of some media houses are receiving large amount of money from candidates to carry one headline story while some politicians were spending a lot of money to suppress any headline material that may come from their political opponents, or the candidate simply wants to be projected in good light through exploiting the media. One senior journalist who is working for a local radio station told NUSOJ that “it is a known fact that our manager has amassed great fortune from these inducements”.
Another journalist, whose identity cannot be disclosed for security reasons and because he may lose his job, said “I have evidence that these politicians are paying huge amounts of money to have their stories featured prominently in the media. It is also a well-orchestrated scheme where they are also making sure that any positive news, especially if it emanates from their opponents, is nipped in the bud and does not go past the editor”.
Some media owners are among candidates and have been using their media houses as a tool to fight for political seats, or some private media owners are openly backing certain politicians and therefore making biased reports against certain candidates.
“It is surely incumbent on the private media to be thoughtful and to conduct itself in ways that will enhance and not undermine acceptable international standards of professional journalism. Unethical journalism is unacceptable. Media houses must operate ethically, and journalists must resist all attempts to bribe them,” said Osman.
“Domination of private media houses by politically partisan media owners is nearly as inefficacious as government control. Failure to protect truth, fairness, and journalism as a public good gives politicians and other detractors ammunition to attack the media,” added Osman.
The responsibility and role of the State Media becomes more important at this crucial time in the country’s history. As a state media, which is supposed to serve the interests of the public at large, the role of the State media is to ensure that Somali people, including those taking part elections, are able to make an informed choice by providing fair, balanced, accurate and objective coverage of candidates and all related electoral processes.
NUSOJ calls on FIEIT to ensure equitable access to the State Media by all candidates regardless if they are currently in the government, political advertising in broadcasting and the respect of media houses and journalists by politicians.