Mogadishu, November 2, 2023: the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) joined hands to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. This event, in line with the African Union's Silencing the Guns in Africa Initiative, was organised to bring attention to the critical importance of seeking justice and eliminating impunity for crimes committed against journalists in Somalia.
The National Commemoration kicked off under the theme “Demanding Justice for Journalists – A Stand Against Impunity.” Honourable Bashe Yusuf Ahmed, Chief Justice and President of Somalia's Supreme Court, graced the event as the Guest of Honour. His presence not only extended solidarity to journalists but also served as a powerful symbol of the judiciary's dedication to ending impunity and securing justice for journalists, while also recognizing their indispensable role in fostering peace and stability in Somalia.
During his opening address, Omar Faruk Osman, the Secretary-General of NUSOJ, strongly denounced the shockingly normalized culture of impunity surrounding crimes against journalists. He expressed, “This unacceptable situation perpetuates further violence, ensnaring journalists in a vicious cycle of victimization and enabling those who oppose peace and justice to flourish unchecked in Somalia.” Osman emphasized the urgent need for concrete action and accountability, urging both federal and state authorities to take firm measures against impunity for crimes against journalists.
“We cannot allow journalists to endure the atrocities inflicted upon them by perpetrators seeking to suppress the truth. It is imperative that we create an environment where journalists can fearlessly fulfil their vital role in society, while ensuring perpetrators face the consequences of their actions.” Osman further asserted that perpetuating a culture of impunity tarnishes Somalia's reputation as a deadly place, where impunity festers.
The Chief Justice of Somalia and President of the Supreme Court, Honourable Bashe Yusuf Ahmed, passionately spoke out against the disgraceful impunity surrounding the killings and attacks on journalists in Somalia. He pledged that the judiciary would leave no stone unturned to address these flagrant human rights violations. With resolute determination, he declared, “Those who dare to harm journalists will face the full weight of the law, bearing the consequences of their despicable actions.”
Underscoring the judiciary's determined dedication to ensuring justice, he firmly asserted, “The Supreme Court stands united with journalists, leaving no doubt of our staunch support. Perpetrators of violence against journalists will face unfaltering accountability without any exceptions. Our relentless pursuit of justice will persist until every journalist can carry out their vital work without fear, and press freedom is upheld and protected without hindrance.”
According to NUSOJ, between 2010 and 2023, 62 journalists lost their lives while carrying out their journalistic duties. Additionally, 67 journalists sustained injuries between 2010 and 2013. Many others have faced threats, intimidation, and forced exile, emphasizing the hazardous conditions faced by journalists in Somalia and featuring the urgent nature of the situation requiring immediate action.
The wave of attacks of journalists and the prevailing culture of impunity can be attributed to various underlying factors. Political instability, armed conflicts, and the brave exposure of extremist groups have created a breeding ground for such heinous acts. Furthermore, corruption, inadequate governance, the absence of robust legal protections, and ineffective safety measures contribute to the dire situation. Ultimately, the deficiency in political will to confront this alarming culture of impunity exacerbates the problem, prolonging the cycle of violence and injustice.
NUSOJ demands urgent and comprehensive investigations into crimes committed against journalists, effective implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) for the Safety of Journalists in Somalia, and the strengthening of criminal justice frameworks to prosecute perpetrators of these crimes successfully. Collaboration and support at both federal and state levels are required to combat impunity, ensuring each stakeholder plays a complementary role.
Gathering more than 70 media directors, editors, reporters and press freedom advocates, the National Commemoration echoes the African Union's (AU) renowned “Silencing the Guns in Africa Initiative,” which promotes peace and security. In Somalia, it serves as a catalyst for collective action to combat impunity and ensure justice for journalists.
“Eradicating impunity is crucial for achieving justice, security, peace, and stability within Somalia. Journalists play a vital role in establishing peace and stability in the country, and their protection is essential for a vibrant and free press. Without justice, peace remains an elusive dream,” added Osman.
NUSOJ calls upon all stakeholders, including the Federal Government, Federal Member States, media organizations, law enforcement authorities, judiciary and the international community to unite in the fight against impunity for crimes committed against journalists.
“Together, we can create a safer environment for journalists to carry out their crucial work and build a society that upholds the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy,” declared Osman.