November 6, 2014
The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) is appalled by the action of the Somali Minister of Information, Mustaf Sheikh Ali, which stopped a two-day conference organised by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) to mark the international day to end impunity on crimes against journalists.
Just as participants reported and began registering for the conference, the Minister of Information Mustaf Sheikh Ali Dhuhulow, through the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA)’s Mogadishu Branch, ordered an immediate halt to the activities, citing the presence of “foreigners” at the activities as a security threat and that the meeting had not been approved by the Ministry of Information. Prior to this, the Minister had called the Secretary-General of NUSOJ on phone and dissociated himself from the conference, saying it was “illegitimate and illegal.”
AFEX recalls that in June this year, the Minister of Information submitted a draconian and repressive media bill, severely restricting media operations and content, to the Somali Council of Ministers for endorsement. Even though media stakeholders mounted intense pressure and the bill was withdrawn for their input, the Minister subsequently submitted the bill again to the Council of Ministers who endorsed it without the input of these media stakeholders.
AFEX recalls the intimidation by the Minister that went with efforts to have the media bill passed. He was reported to have threatened the life of the Secretary General of NUSOJ for leading a campaign for some provisions in the media bill to be amended.
Since 2006, 53 journalists have been killed in Somalia. In all these cases, neither the perpetrators have been brought to book nor have there been any appropriate remedies to avert further perpetration of crimes against journalists. The conference was, therefore, organised for media professionals, government officials, human rights activists, civil society members as well as the international community to discuss ways of ending impunity in Somalia.
Prior to the arrival of two representatives of AFEX in Somalia to participate in the activities, all laid down procedures had been followed. Subsequently, the Ministry of National Security approved the arrival of the delegation, following NUSOJ’s formal request, and wrote to the Directorate of Immigration and Nationalities, requesting that visas be issued for the two. AFEX is, thus, utterly surprised that the Minister would see the two representatives of AFEX as “foreigners posing a threat to Somali Government” and to stop the activities on that basis.
On 1 November 2014, the Deputy Minister of Information, Abdullahi Olad Roble, held a press conference in which he referred to the presence of the two AFEX representatives in Somalia as “illegal” and that they had instructed security authorities to investigate them.
Some Somali government officials have spoken against the action of the Minister of Information. While AFEX commends such progressive government officials for their will and preparedness to fight impunity, we see the action of the Minister of Information as a calculated effort to crackdown on freedom of expression in Somalia, especially also given his past actions.
The Minster Mustaf Dhuhulow action further sends a signal that he condones impunity and, therefore, does not welcome any discussion on the matter. At a time when the global community is making efforts to rebuild the Somali State, AFEX expects the Somali Government to demonstrate some will to end impunity. AFEX calls on the Somali Government to bring the Minister of Information to order.
AFEX is a continental network of the most prominent African freedom of expression organisations who are also members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the global network of free expression organisations. The network is currently made up of nine organisations based in West, East, Central and Southern Africa. AFEX works to increase the effectiveness of its members and to enhance the impact of their work in addressing freedom of expression challenges in Africa.
Learn more about AFEX and its members by visiting www.africafex.org