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World Press Freedom Day Symposium Shines a Light on Journalism’s Role in Combatting Climate Crisis

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), in partnership with the U.S. Embassy, successfully hosted the World Press Freedom Day Symposium on 2-3 May 2024 in Mogadishu, under the theme “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis,” highlighting the crucial role of journalism in navigating and addressing the environmental challenges confronting Somalia and its people.

This year’s symposium, aligning with UNESCO's global theme to nationally mark World Press Freedom Day, brought together over 60 influential figures from media, civil society, government and international partners. The two-day meeting served as a crucial platform for discussing the urgent environmental issues threatening Somalia's ecosystems, economy and communities, with a particular focus on the vital role of robust journalism and press freedom in driving societal and policy changes.

High-profile diplomats attended the event to lend their support and express solidarity with Somali journalists, reinforcing the international commitment to press freedom and assisting Somalia in addressing its climate-induced crises. The distinguished attendees included H.E. Shane Dixon, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy; H.E. Mike Nithavrianakis, British Ambassador to Somalia; and H.E. Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of ATMIS. Their presence significantly underscored the global cooperation essential for advancing press freedom and tackling the environmental challenges facing Somalia.

Reflecting the significance of this year's theme, the symposium was honoured with the presence of chief guests at the opening: the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, H.E. Ambassador Khadija Mohamed Al-Makhzoumi and the Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education, H.E. Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir. The event culminated on the second day with the Minister of Information and Tourism, H.E. Daud Aweis Jama, receiving the outcomes of the deliberations and officially declaring the symposium closed.

“Press freedom in Somalia has always been a perilous journey, with journalists over the years facing serious and deadly attacks by perpetrators who often enjoy impunity and encountering professional challenges that hinder their ability to effectively report on critical issues such as climate change and environmental degradation, thus impacting their role in delivering journalism as a public good,” stated Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, during the opening session of the symposium.

On day one, engaging panel discussions emphasised the necessity of a conducive press freedom environment, vital for empowering journalism to raise awareness of climate change issues, featuring representatives from the media, civil society, USAID and the UNSOM Human Rights Group. These presentations and interactive discussions explored the challenges and opportunities in climate change reporting, aimed at establishing a robust climate narrative and discussed how journalism can drive just transition measures to secure fair, equitable and sustainable solutions. Furthermore, speakers showcased innovative reporting techniques that enhance public understanding and actively contribute to the development and refinement of policies.

On the second day, the focus shifted to the safety of journalists, particularly those in Somalia who tackle environmental reporting in challenging conditions. These deliberations, featuring speakers from the media and UNESCO, reviewed the specific risks associated with local journalists’ work. The day concluded with the adoption of the National Declaration on World Press Freedom Day 2024, which outlined key resolutions on press freedom, media professionalism and environmental justice and further advocated for the protection of journalists and the promotion of free and fair reporting.

“We have convened here to honour World Press Freedom Day, a crucial event in our calendar and to partake in forthright, insightful discussions on press freedom, professional challenges and the pressing climate calamities as well as environmental crises we face. Journalism undeniably stands as a formidable force for raising awareness, fostering adaptation and driving mitigation efforts,” added Osman.

The symposium concluded with significant achievements as journalists, policymakers and civil society representatives forged stronger connections, setting the stage for a collaborative approach to addressing Somalia's environmental challenges. Journalists, including decision-makers of editorial content from various media houses, were equipped with enhanced knowledge, enabling them to tackle environmental reporting with greater depth and sensitivity. This culminated in a collective reaffirmation of the essential role of press freedom in achieving informed public discourse and effective governance.