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Journalists barred from covering Somali leaders’ meeting

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is deeply concerned that journalists were today barred from covering the meeting of the leaders of the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member States (FMSs) as well as the Governor and Mayor of Mogadishu.

Unlike previous leaders’ meetings, NUSOJ is reliably informed that some FMS leaders expressly demanded that journalists be barred from covering the meeting.

As a union of journalists dedicated to the defence of freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information, NUSOJ believes that no political leader has the right to block journalists from covering such an important meeting particularly at this crucial time when the country is preparing elections.

“By barring journalists from covering the leaders’ meeting based on the whims of politicians, the leaders risk undermining the very agreement of September 17 that is the subject of discussions in their meeting, and which in actual sense, explicitly guarantees media freedom and freedom of expression for all Somalis” said Omar Faruk Osman.

NUSOJ considers that these are calculated schemes meant to camouflage the truth, avoid accountability, and empower repressive forces across the country who have consistently used similar narratives to justify repression of independent journalists and stifle democracy in the country.

To quote the 17 September 2020 electoral agreement, signed by FGS and FMS leaders, “… leaders emphasize that freedom of expression is inviolable under the country's Provisional Constitution and the Media Law, and that the media should be given the opportunity to report freely on polling stations and all forms of harassment that can prevent them from fulfilling their election-related responsibilities must be avoided”.

“Journalists and their news media organisations should therefore be able to conduct their constitutional duties to seek and disseminate information in the public interest without any hindrance. We call on the political leaders to positively contribute to the free flow of information, more so as it pertains to the important negotiations of the upcoming elections” declared Osman. “We urge the leaders to reconsider their decision and allow unfettered access to the media”.

As member of the United Nations and the African Union, Somalia assumed a responsibility to uphold the values expressed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, including the right of all people “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”