Somali journalists remain victims of threats, beating, arbitrary detention

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The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is yet alarmed by the continued attacks including threats, beating, arbitrary detention, obstruction from reporting public interest stories, which further puts the journalists and media workers at risk to report certain issues and as we reiterate our call to the Somalia authorities to respect the press freedom and give journalists a safe environment where they can report freely without fear of reprisals.

Celebrated every year on 3rd May, this year’s theme for the Day is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights”, signifying the enabling element of freedom of expression to enjoy and protect all other human rights.   

Unfortunately, Much worse than the previous years, judicial harassment on journalists and union leaders, threats through orders and directives that curtail press freedom and impose the journalists and the media houses to remain under self-censorship fearing government reprisals has become the norm and in this way, many stories with public interest went unreported.

The growing pressure against Somali journalists and lack of access to information call for concern. When journalists are blocked, threatened and their access to information denied, it will entrench a culture of impunity. Providing and presenting information to the general public, particularly on human rights violations promotes redress for the victims or to seek justice regarding perpetrators through legal action.

Lack of accountability for attacks against journalists is a serious and pervasive problem that threatens the protection of journalists and media workers in Somalia. 21 journalists have been attacked, arbitrarily detained or threatened for carrying out their duties including union officials from 1 January 2023 to 3 May, 2023. And yet the perpetrators are never held accountable.

On 1 May 2023, Three journalists working for the Shabelle Media Network and Universal TV were beaten and obstructed from exercising their journalistic duties after trying to cover a waste water from last week’s rain which harbour at a contaminated garbage site Fagah neighborhood in Mogadishu. Due to lack of proper drainage system, a heavy rainfall in Mogadishu resulted flooding and garbage seen in Mogadishu neighborhoods. The journalists accused director of the Sanitation department of the Banadir region Mohamed Suudi who ordered his guards to beat and obstruct the journalists from reporting. Among the journalists are Zakariye Ahmed Muse and Mahad Hasan Abdi Tawakal a reporter and a cameraman for the Shabelle Media Network and  Abdirisak Mohamed Qoslaye, a cameraman from Universal TV. According to the Shabelle Media Network, the same official threatened their cameraman Abdifatah Rooble the previous day.

On 23 April 2023, Somaliland police in Erigabo, Sanaag region, detained Bulsho TV reporter Abdilatiif Said Asayr following his report on a statement by the Erigabo mayor, Ahmed Isdebar, who instructed local police to deal with and stop “intermingling of men and women in the tourist locations”. The journalist was freed on 24 February from the police custody without charge.

On 23 April 2023, Somaliland news site reported that a court order issued by the Marodi-Jeh District Court instructed local telecom companies to block access to the social media accounts such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter belonging to several individuals including journalists and other critics. All of them have been publishing news and commentary articles about the Laascaanood conflict. The court order was issued in January 2023 but has not been implemented yet.

On 27 April 2023, Somaliland ministry of information said it has lifted the suspension of the BBC Somali Service broadcast, which the ministry imposed on 19 July, 2022.  According to the Somaliland Minister of Information, Suleyman Yusuf Ali (Koore), the lifting of the suspension follows a series of meetings between Somaliland ministry of information and the BBC Somali Service representatives.

“Government officials should refrain from interfering, threatening and obstructing journalists’ work while on duty. We condemn any actions to threaten, harass and attack journalists in the strongest terms possible and we demand that those who involved in this latest attack to be held accountable for attacking journalists,” Mohamed Ibrahim, SJS President said, “Journalists work should be respected and regarded as positive contribution by shedding light on critical but important stories that the public has the right to know.”

“These attacks and vague directives from the Ministry of information led many journalists to flee the country and media houses to self-censor for fear of their safety, leading many important stories unreported,” Mr. Ibrahim added.

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