Safeguard media freedom as a cornerstone for building democracy in Somalia, says NUSOJ on International Day of Democracy

International Day of Democracy

Today marks the International Day of Democracy, a solemn day that is celebrated worldwide as an occasion for peoples across the world to review the state of democracy in their respective countries. 

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) takes the opportunity to, once again, remind the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and its Federal Member States (FMS) that Somalia’s transition to democracy cannot happen in an environment where freedom of expression and media freedom are disregarded and abused at will by the political class.

NUSOJ wishes to remind both the FGS and the FMS that freedom of expression and media freedom are enshrined in the national constitution and other international conventions and treaties which the country has ratified.

NUSOJ therefore calls upon both the FGS and the FMS to trustworthily recommit to the protection of freedom of expression and media freedom as key tenets to the realisation of a free, democratic and progressive Somalia in which all have equal rights under the law and their basic rights are protected.

“More than ever, political leadership and Statesmanship is now needed, to ensure that journalists and news media organisations operate in an atmosphere free of threats, harassment and where information is freely accessible to citizens. All political leaders in every corner of the country are duty-bound to protect media freedom,” said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman.  “A free and independent media where journalists work in a safe and secure environment is a key pillar in the quest for durable peace and democratic governance in Somalia” he added. 

As we celebrate this day, we wish to highlight the unfortunate incidences and cases of brazen attacks meted on journalists over the past few months. Regrettably, none of the perpetrators of this heinous crimes have been brought to book. 

From January to June 2021, NUSOJ documented fourteen (14) cases of physical attacks, harassment, intimidation and threats directed at journalists and media organizations. It is deplorable that these attacks, which are calculated to instil fear and stifle independent reporting by the media have been mostly carried out by members of the security forces of the FGS and FMS authorities, at the behest of senior leaders who act with impunity and in blatant disregard of the law.

Four (4) cases of media attacks were documented in January 2021 which appears to have set the pace for the rest of the year with five (5) cases of government-sanctioned attacks against journalists recorded during February, including the trial of a journalist at a military court in Puntland over spurious charges. 

The attacks of journalists continued with tragic consequence in March 2021, when Jamal Farah Adan, a Puntland-based journalist, who had received numerous threats to his life, succumbed to injuries he sustained after being shot in Galkayo town on 1 March 2021.

Journalists at Mustaqbal radio station in Mogadishu were beaten by members of the Somali government security forces, who raided their offices, damaged the media equipment and confiscated some of their equipment from the station in April this year.

Female journalists were not spared the wrath of the Somali police, who on 16 May attacked and beaten up Fardowsa Mohamud Sahal, as she covered protests in Mogadishu. Her sound recorder and cell phone were confiscated by the police in Mogadishu.

“These cases demonstrate the systematic and sustained targeting of journalists for attack, and further highlight the unbroken culture of impunity against journalists and a lack of the political will to tackle this cancer. We reiterate that journalists need to be reassured about their safety and security, as they go about their duty of informing and educating members of the public on important local and national issues.” Osman remarked.

NUSOJ wishes to reiterate its call on the FGS and FMS to fulfil their responsibility to protect journalists and safeguard media freedom as they carry the solemn responsibility to provide security and guarantee media rights.

The union further calls upon the authorities at both Federal and State levels to stop online harassment, cyber-threats, state monitoring and hacking activities directed at journalists and media houses. NUSOJ is irked by the measures taken by some authorities to censure and moderate online content, and limit access to information by blocking websites.

“Such actions and measures are incompatible with the principles of democracy which this day is about. Somali authorities, wherever they are, need to stop the rhetoric about democracy and make sure that their actions are consistent with democratic norms” Osman stressed.