SJS stands in solidarity with VOA, urges Somalia’s info ministry to cease obstructing the truth and suppressing free media

MOGADISHU, Somalia 22 June, 2024 – The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) stands firmly with the Voice of America’s (VOA) for their factual reporting on Somalia affairs in the midst of growing pressure and threats against independent journalists working on the ground in Somalia.

We condemn the Somali federal ministry of information’s unfounded attack on VOA’s reporting which can only be described as a clear attempt to obscure the truth and suppress the dissemination of factual information in Somalia.

VOA remains one of the most trusted international news media for the Somalis in the country and in the diaspora. The 20 June statement by the Somali ministry of information calling VOA’s report on 17 June “misleading” is utterly disgrace move intended to jeopardize the fundamental right of Somali citizens and the international community to be informed about the realities on the ground and hinders the public’s ability to make informed decisions. The VOA report simply quoted senior U.S. defense officials and corroborated with other sources mentioned in the article to report on that “Al-Shabab has reversed all Somali National Army gains made in central Somalia over the last two years and is now working with Houthi militants to expand its capabilities”. The report also included a response from Somalia’s national security advisor.

“If any report is to be considered misleading and inaccurate, it is the Ministry of Information of Somalia’s press statements. They should be ashamed of their continuous repetition of false and inaccurate, copy-pasted statements that do not reflect the reality of the situation in the country,” said SJS Secretary General Abdalle Mumin.

The SJS stands firm in solidarity with VOA journalists who are tirelessly working to provide the public with timely and factual reporting, regardless of whom it irritates. We also express our gratitude to the brave local Somali journalists who, despite the threats and intimidation they face, continue to report on what is happening in the country, including the situations at the frontlines where many of Somalia’s brave soldiers have lost their lives due to terrorist advancements. Many local media houses, as documented by SJS, are unable to report a single incident about these developments and how they have impacted our society, including the family members of the armed forces who are mourning the losses of their loved ones.

On 13 March, journalist Sugaal Moalim Mohamud, who is employed by the Somalia government-owned media, was suspended from his job and his salary cut in retaliation for expressing his concerns that “if the Somali National Army (SNA) does not get real leadership and change, all the successes achieved in the past will end in failure similar to what happened in Caad, Camaara, and Shabeelow.” This is a clear indication that any journalist who dares to report anything different from what the Somali government wants will be subjected to retribution.

A free and independent press is the cornerstone of any democratic society, serving as a watchdog that holds power to account and ensures transparency. We call on the Somali government to respect and uphold the principles of press freedom and to cease its attempts to silence independent reporting. We urge the international community to stand in solidarity with independent media and to support efforts to protect journalists from intimidation and retribution for their independent reporting.

“In these critical times, the role of independent media in Somalia is more vital than ever. Somalia is at a dangerous junction and only independent and credible reporting can informed decisions be made. That is why we at SJS continue to advocate for a free press and the protection of journalists who strive to bring the truth to light,” added Mr. Mumin.

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