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IFJ condemns 'farcical' threat to prosecute journalists’ leader in Somalia

© Omar with NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet

31 May 2017

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today voiced serious concerns over "farcical" attempts to prosecute the head  of its affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), after he spoke out against government policies on press freedom and journalists’ rights.

Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ general secretary, has been summoned to respond to accusations of "organizing on 3 May a commemoration of world press freedom without authorisation from the ministry of information” and "issuing on 6 May an abusive statement, as NUSOJ, which offended and defamed the minister of information of the federal government of Somalia, and was widely disseminated", according to a letter from the attorney general's office.

In a statement, the union reminded the authorities of the constitutional right contained in article 20, clause (1), stating that "every person has the right to organize and participate in meetings and to demonstrate and protest peacefully, without requiring prior authorization" and blamed the minister of information for conspiring to seek legal action against Osman through "puppets boosted by that minister".

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:

"These farcical accusations were formulated to instill fear and use intimidation through the attorney general’s office. The continued abuse of office by those in power even when there is a change of government is a worrying practice". 

The IFJ rejects that holding a world press freedom day celebration and criticising the minister's policies are criminal offices and blames the government and specifically the ministry of information, for continuing anti-trade union activities against NUSOJ, these actions include grave freedom of association abuses which have already been condemned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ general secretary, said:

"We are cognisant that there are efforts to compromise the independence and impartiality of Somalia’s judiciary and public prosecutors by government officials in order to curtail the rights and freedom of leaders and members of NUSOJ.

"We hold Somalia’s ministry of information entirely responsible if anything happens to the leadership and members of NUSOJ, no matter any governmental institution it uses overtly or behind the curtain."

The IFJ gives its full support to NUSOJ and its general secretary, who is also a member of its executive committee.

Philippe Leruth, IFJ president, added:

"The charges against our colleague Omar are completely scandalous and farfetched.

"The IFJ urges the federal government of Somalia to fully respect the right of freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, and to end attacks on independent trade union movement."

This attack on NUSOJ comes weeks after Somalia’s attorney general, Osman Elmi Guled, told the ministries of information and labour to fully comply with the recommendations of the ILO after the Somali government lost and NUSOJ won.

Bellanger added:

"Any hope for legal accountability and the just rule of law to be restored and respected in Somalia is fading. We see government officials who are disregarding the legal advice of state attorney general, and operating as openly partisan and unaccountable authorities in order to suppress freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly."

The IFJ is joining forces with the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) to renew its solidarity activity with journalists and trade unions in Somalia.

Tags: , nusoj, somalia, national union of somali journalists, ifj, journalists' rights, ilo, government, freedom of association, freedom of expression, trade union freedom, trade union rights, world press freedom day