Mogadishu – Somalia: Today is the International Day for the End of Criminal Investigation – a key opportunity to highlight the difficult conditions in which some journalists work and the need to give journalists justice, investigate and prosecute not only murder but also threats on violence against journalists.
It was established in 2013 as an annual compliance through a resolution of the UN General Assembly, which calls on the member states of the world body to take determined measures to counteract the current culture of impunity for the news media. The date was chosen to commemorate the murder of two French journalists in Mali on November 2, 2013.
The resolution condemns all attacks and violence against media workers. It also calls on the Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability, to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against them and to ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies. It further calls on the Member States to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to carry out their work independently and without undue interference.
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is an independent journalists’ union. It was founded in May 2019 by professional Somali journalists to defend the rights of Somali journalists and promote freedom of the press. The association is a member of the Congress of African Journalists (CAJ) and CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to strengthening citizens’ actions and civil society.
SJS has more than 450 members, consisting of journalists, sub-editors and editors, and operates through annual membership fees from its membership, as well as support from international partners, such as the National Endowment for Democracy and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, as well as UN assistance missions in Somalia (UNSOM). The UN in Somalia has often commented on the importance of media security and protecting the country’s political space, including freedom of expression.
In the following interview, SJS’s Secretary General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, talks about current working conditions for Somali journalists.
Q. In your opinion, how safe is Somalia for journalists?
Abdalle Moomin: Somali journalists operate in an extremely dangerous environment – they are between stone and stone. Somalia retains its unenviable title as one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism globally. Threats and attacks by government officials, private individuals and the militant al-Shabaab uprising are still the norm. Journalists who want to report on security issues, possible misconduct by government officials and human rights violations have regularly faced harassment and threats.
Many journalists have been forced to resort to self-censorship. As the country is now in transition and preparing to hold its elections, the problems have increased further. In addition to the ongoing violence against journalists, the Somali authorities have introduced a draconian media law that restricts freedom of expression, censors journalists and imposes harsh penalties for all reporting that is considered critical of the state, such as reporting national security or even reviewing public officials. .
Q. What impact has had on Somali journalists?
Abdalle Moomin: Just this year, a journalist – online journalist Jamal Farah Adan – was murdered in Galkayo, Puntland. Three journalists were injured, most of them by firearms, and three others were beaten. Five media houses raided, while a dozen others were harassed and intimidated or denied access to information. Between 1 January and 26 October, 49 journalists were arrested. The majority of these arrests were arbitrary detentions that took place in Mogadishu, Puntland, Jubaland, Galmudug and Somaliland.
There are very limited protection mechanisms for Somali journalists. Media houses do not have sufficient resources to provide protection for their journalists who undertake dangerous assignments, and authorities at the federal and state level have often failed to protect journalists – often those responsible for attacking, threatening or harassing journalists are not held accountable. This has also reduced the security and protection of media outlets across the country.
In addition, journalism as a profession in Somalia is among those who pay the least and there is a great need to develop the skills of journalists through vocational training.
Q. How important is this international day for stopping impunity for crimes against media journalists in Somalia?
Abdalle Moomin: International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is a unique day for journalists around the world – and it has a special meaning in Somalia because it serves as a sad reminder to us of all our fellow journalists who have been injured or killed while performs its important work, but also as a reminder of the importance of advocating change to achieve justice.
According to our records, 12 journalists have been killed in the country since February 2017. And according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), about 70 journalists have been killed in Somalia since 1992. Unfortunately, almost 99 percent of these murders. was not properly investigated and the perpetrators are still roaming free.
This reinforces the importance of the Day as an opportunity to advocate an end to such impunity for the perpetrators and to bring justice to the victims. Somalia should use this year’s memorial service as an opportunity for a new and genuine commitment to end journalist assassinations, investigate all cases of journalists who have been killed and prosecute the perpetrators. Crimes against Somali journalists and media workers must simply stop.
Q. What is SJS doing to protect journalists and media freedom in Somalia?
Abdalle Moomin: At present, at its core, SJS strives to save the lives of journalists. We have contact with local lawyers, security experts and senior reporters to provide 24/7 advice via a hotline to journalists covering events in Somalia, including elections and developments in its conflict areas.
Overall, we strive to create a platform for journalists where they can interact, network and share best practices, as well as build their capacity through training, seminars or workshops, so that Somalia can one day benefit from having the quality journalism it deserves.
At the moment, SJS is currently conducting a safety training series, with the support of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), with about 60 journalists participating. With the support of international partners, we have had other educations in the past and hope for more in the future.
Q. What kind of support do Somali journalists need to strengthen their protection and secure their rights?
Abdalle Moomin: Somali journalists are an important part of Somalia’s civil society and part of the country’s peacebuilding and state – building efforts. SJS would like to see international partners, such as the UN, engage in more support for the media sector – not only by supporting short-term training, but also through projects that develop journalists and newsrooms in the long term. In addition, the UN has been effective in the past in advocating for fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, and I call on it to play a greater role in further advocating with government officials to ensure that freedom of expression is protected in Somalia.
– UNSOM –