Somali government must take its responsibility to protect journalists, investigate and prosecute crimes against media workers

MOGADISHU, Somalia 2 November, 2023 – On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI), The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) expresses deep concern about the escalating crimes against journalists in Somalia and the persistent culture of impunity surrounding the violence against journalists.

Today, on 2 November 2023, as we observe the IDEI, we are troubled by the rising violence and attacks against independent media and journalists in Somalia. Equally troubling is the fact that not a single investigation has been initiated into these crimes.

Over the past four years, from 1 January 2020 to 30 October 2023, eight prominent journalists have lost their lives, and dozens have been injured. While some of these tragic events were the result of bombings or suicide bombing attacks, the absence of proper investigations is a cause for serious concern. We reiterate our call for the creation of a safe and conducive environment where media freedom can thrive in Somalia.

Arbitrary detentions, threats with guns, raids on media institutions, and silencing through intimidation and threats of criminal prosecution have sadly become commonplace. Our documented cases for the period from 1 January to 30 October 2023 reveal that 28 journalists have been detained, with some facing charges across the country, including in Somaliland. An additional six journalists (four in Mogadishu and two in Puntland) were summoned and threatened with criminal charges. Radio Barawe, an essential radio station representing the minority community in Lower Shabelle region, remains closed following an armed attack in August this year. All of these incidents underscore the deteriorating state of press freedom in the country.

We firmly believe that the Somali government and its regional authorities hold a critical responsibility to protect journalists and to investigate and prosecute crimes committed against them.

SJS is concerned by the apparent lack of progress in ending impunity for crimes against journalists in Somalia. The failure to investigate these crimes fosters an environment of fear and intimidation, hindering journalists from carrying out their work freely and safely.

Article 32 of Somalia’s Federal Constitution guarantees the right of access to information, while Article 18 upholds the right to freedom of opinion and expression, encompassing freedom of speech and of the media aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, various international treaties, and regional and global conventions to which Somalia is a signatory.

Somalia is also a party to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which, in Article 9, underscores the importance of media freedom. The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information reinforces the Charter’s provisions, emphasizing the importance of press freedom and journalist protection.

On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, SJS calls upon the Somali Federal Government and the Federal Member States to prioritize the safety and security of journalists and address the issue of impunity with a sense of urgency. This must begin with prompt, transparent, and comprehensive investigations into these cases, ultimately leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

We also call upon all stakeholders, both within and outside Somalia, to stand with us in our quest for justice and the protection of journalists in Somalia.

“In four years we lost eight journalists and regrettable, the number continue to rise. The tragic loss of our colleague Abdifatah Moalim Nur (Qeys) on 16 October, and the shooting attack on Radio Barawe on 12 August serve as a stark reminder of the grave perils journalists in Somalia confront daily. Our pain is compounded by the authorities’ reluctance, or the lack of any apparent willingness, to investigate the violence inflicted upon journalists and their media outlets. We urgently call for accountability and demand that those responsible of these attacks are brought to justice, for the sake of press freedom and justice in Somalia,” said SJS Secretary General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin.

“On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, we call on governments, civil society, and international partners to unite in a resounding demand for the safety and protection of journalists. It is the duty of every government to safeguard these voices of truth and ensure that crimes against journalists do not go unanswered. Let us work together to end the culture of impunity, creating an environment where journalists can carry out their crucial work without fear and intimidation,” added Mumin.

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