Under the theme, “Silencing the Guns: Protecting the Safety and Security of Somali Journalists”, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), in collaboration with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) convened a two-day Consultative Forum on Safety and Security of Somali Journalists. The conference, held on 26-27 October at the Royal Hotel in Galkayo, was a fitting opportunity to discuss the endemic safety and security crisis that many Somali journalists face daily.
Galkayo alone is the second most deadly place for journalists in Somalia as per data routinely captured by NUSOJ. Situating the discussion in the Mudug region facing such a challenge created a particularly poignant yet urgent atmosphere over the two days.
This event followed a similar, although more multilateral Consultative Forum on Safety and Security of Somali Journalists held in September 2022 in Mogadishu which was convened by NUSOJ with the support of ATMIS, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Galkayo Forum also served as a platform to create momentum to the lead up of the upcoming International Day to End Impunity Against Journalists on 2 November. This is aligned with regional efforts such as the African Union’s (AU) “Silencing the Guns” initiative, an initiative of the AU’s Agenda 2063 that aims to end all wars, conflict and gender-based violence, and to promote peace and stability.
The meeting was opened by NUSOJ Vice President, Burhan Abdullahi Hashi, who highlighted the union’s role in protecting and fulfilling the rights of journalists. “The intention of the union is to drive a homegrown solution to the safety and security crisis that Somali journalists face daily,” Hashi noted. “Making safe place for journalists in Mudug is paramount for the union and needs a holistic approach where the authorities, journalists, and international partners are working to ensure the safety of journalists.”
The principle of collaboration is essential and one which must underpin successful and sustainable efforts to keep journalists safe. It was therefore encouraging that the Mayor of Galkayo and former journalist, Hassan Mohamed Jama (Hassan Jidka), spoke passionately at the meeting as a keynote speaker. He stressed the direct relationship between safety and security of journalists in Galkayo and Mudug region and overall peace and stability of the country; one cannot be achieved and sustained without the other.
With more practical actions needed to address the multifaceted safety crisis facing journalists, Mayor Jama publicly committed to working more closely with the journalists in Puntland and Galmudug as well as their union on issues of safety and addressing the problem of impunity.
This point was echoed by Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of NUSOJ, who advocated for more recognition of the contribution that journalists play in national stabilisation and peacebuilding. “Today we have a national action plan on the safety of journalists, developed by journalists, for journalists and about journalists”.
“This is the first ever Somali-led and Somali-owned, journalist centred initiative aimed at addressing the safety crisis facing the journalism profession in Somalia. We now want words to be translated into action to ensure the safety of our journalists,” said Osman.
In addition to the safety and security issues facing journalists in the Puntland and Galmudug States, participants at the Forum discussed gender-based violence and the safety of women in journalism, and existing regional and national instruments designed to protect journalists and combat impunity. There were also spirited discussions on digital threats, tackling impunity and implementing basic safety measures.
Forum participants also received the National Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists, which was developed through joint collaboration of working journalists, UNESCO, ATMIS and ILO, and officially adopted in September 2022.
As a concrete framework and roadmap towards realising the safety of journalists, underpinned by robust data and substantive input from key players, journalists in Galkayo unanimously endorsed the plan. They specifically called for its speedy implementation to safeguard the safety and security of journalists.