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Marking International Day for Universal Access to Information, Somali journalists call for Enactment of Progressive Access to Information Law

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2020 International Day for Universal Access to Information by organising a roundtable discussion for journalists to raise awareness of the importance of the right to access information.

The day, which falls on September 28 every year, also offers an opportunity to cast the spotlight on the challenges that hamper the enjoyment of the right to access information, which is guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. It is also recognised by Article 32 of the Provisional Constitution of Somalia.

“The access to information is crucial to effectively respect human rights. In the absence of respect for the right to freedom of information or access to information, human rights abuses take place in secret, impunity flourishes and there is no way to expose inefficient government” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

“Somalia’s public institutions hold a vast wealth of information and, if this is held in secret, the right to freedom of information, guaranteed under African and international human rights laws as well as the constitution of Somalia, is seriously curtailed. Somalia urgently needs progressive access to information legislation,” added Osman.

Journalists at the roundtable have expressed the challenges they face in seeking to gather factual information whereby governmental authorities have been hampering access to information and therefore denying the citizens the right to know.

NUSOJ expressed serious concerns over the restrictions imposed by the House of the People on journalists and independent media houses who have been striving to cover the parliamentary proceedings freely and without any censorship.

“The House of People must end the censorship and other restrictive measures imposed on journalists for carrying out their professional duties. This is a grave violation of freedom of information” declared Osman.

Stressing that access to information is a citizenry right, Awil Mohamud Abdi, President of NUSOJ Supreme Council said “information empowers citizens in making informed decisions and choices on matters affecting their lives and operations. This entails active public interest disclosure of information to inspire transparency and accountability in State institutions.”

“We encourage fellow journalists to meticulously exercise their access to information right and the union will do everything in its power to the enjoyment of this basic human right” added Abdi.

Launching a national call for the enactment of access to information law, NUSOJ has today urged the Federal Government of Somalia to enact access to information as a matter of urgency and as mandated by the Constitution of Somalia submitting an access to information bill to the federal Parliament to give effect to the enjoyment of the right to access to information. This Bill should also meet African and international benchmarks, and as set out in the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ Model Law on Access to Information.