The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today released its annual State of the Media Report, which once again documents the continuing spiral of violence and violations of media freedom directed at journalists and news media organisations. The report focuses on the suffering, insecurity and difficulties journalists face on a day-to-day basis while on duty. It systematically documents media freedom cases in 2021 where journalists’ rights have been violated by state and non-state actors and exposes those who impede media freedom.
Aptly titled “Trail of Violence: Somali Journalists Bear the Brunt of Impunity,” the report paints a sombre picture of 2021: two killings of journalists in Mogadishu and Galkayo, and 63 cases of violent attacks, harassment, unlawful arrests, detentions, torture, cyberbullying and threats directed at journalists. Attacks were not limited to individual media professionals but media houses were not spared. On four occasions, four different media houses were targeted last year, showing an overt and concerted effort to intimidate and weaken the entire industry. At the same time, a number of female journalists were attacked and harassed, highlighting the pervasive extent of gender-based violence in the country.
“This type of report should leave no question in anyone’s mind that journalists and news media organizations in Somalia work under extremely dangerous conditions,” says Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ’s Secretary General. “However, while that may come as no surprise, it was important for the public to understand the culture of impunity under which these attacks and killings take place. The lack of accountability means perpetrators, those directly involved in the crimes and those who sanction them with action or inaction, continue their lives unaffected while the victims and their families receive no form of justice.”
Somali media professionals are all familiar with militant groups like Al-Shabaab brazenly claiming responsibility for their heinous crimes against the journalists. Despite this, it is somewhat disturbing that the report singles out state agencies and particularly the police officers across the country, as the leading perpetrators of attacks against journalists, a cruel irony given that these institutions are established to enforce rule of law and to protect human rights.
As the report shows, journalists take extreme risk to fulfil their duty of providing Somalis with the knowledge and information they need to inform their lives across the social and political dimension. This is a cornerstone of democracy in any society and media professionals are an integral part of that process.
NUSOJ will continue to sound the alarm on the inhumane treatment journalists undergo simply because of their professional commitment to unearth stories that are in the public interest. These stories highlight among others, social inequalities, abuse of power, unfair labour practices and corruption at various levels of society. Alongside efforts to educate the public, the union has been vocal on the urgency of progressive legislative change and alignment that would protect journalists in the long run.
Somalia’s outdated Penal Code for example, contains a number of vague offences that unjustly curb media freedom and the right to freedom of expression. This legislation is incompatible with the Provisional Constitution of Somalia which guarantees the right to freedom of expression, opinion and speech, including media freedom, and the international standards on freedom of expression.
“We are incredibly proud of this flagship report as it sets the tone for how our union intends to move forward as a campaigning organisation. Clear documentation, extensive analysis including gendered analysis and unambiguous communication to the public demonstrates that NUSOJ will not be taking its eye off this issue anytime soon. With evidence in hand gathered by local experts and supported by international partners, we will unapologetically continue to place pressure on state and non-state institutions to curb and eventually end all attacks against journalists.”