Somalia: concern over increasing threats to journalists and media freedom

  • 15 Feb 2022

New report reveals killing of Somali journalists, and calls on authorities to end attacks on media freedom.

The NUJ joins the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in calling for an end to impunity for crimes against media workers. 

The State of the Media report published by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), details growing concern over arbitary arrests and violent attacks aimed at journalists. The report describes the killing of two journalists during 2021, and several cases of threats, including 16 known instances of gender based violence.

The NUSOJ's discussions with female journalists  uncovered that some felt forced to leave the profession, and others developed negative coping mechanisms in response to attacks.  Instances of sexual harrassment in-person and online were captured by the union, with female journalists reporting they often faced sexist attitudes  in encounters with the country's criminal justice system. 

The penal code is often used as reason to arrest journalists, with references to  “abusive exercise of a profession” cited. The NUSOJ reports that this runs in contrary to the Provisional Constitution of Somalia, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom. 

In instances of violence and threats to journalists, the report explains "punishment of culprits has been very rare", meaning all too often, those responsible for attacks do not fear consequences of their actions. Combined with the sad reality that the majority of reported crimes are not prosecuted or investigated, the culture of impunity for perpetrators  is further strengthened. 

Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, said:

"Journalists in Somalia continue to risk their lives to bring reports, stories and the truth to the general public. They operate within an extremely dangerous environment designed by archaic legislations that stifle freedom of expression and allow militant groups, power-hungry political elites, public officials and security officers to reign fear on journalists and the citizens with impunity."

Petitions calling on political leaders to condemn attacks have failed in their attempts to bring about change, and shifting attitudes from some members of the public has meant that journalists can be viewed as "wrongdoers" when reporting on the actions of authorities or politicians. 

Several media houses in Somalia are now reluctant to report on political events, contributing to an endemic culture of censorship and silence.

Anthony Bellanger,IFJ General Secretary said: "The numbers of attacks on media workers in Somalia continue to be shocking. We will keep working with the NUSOJ to put pressure on the national authorities and use all available international mechanisms to protect the rights of our Somali colleagues".

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