Published On: Thu, May 4th, 2017

NUSOJ highlights plight of journalists on World Press Freedom Day

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) organised today a meeting entitled “Defending Journalists’ Constitutional Rights” to commemorate the day and highlight the various issues confronted by journalists in the country.

The meeting served as a veritable platform for journalists to brainstorm and reflect on the journey so far, challenges and prospects of the journalism profession while critically reappraising the place of journalists in a nation enmeshed in turbulent security and political uncertainties.

“Journalists in Somalia work in a very dangerous environment which gets more dangerous by the day and is likely to get worse if not stopped now,” said Abdi Adan Guled, Acting President of NUSOJ Supreme Council. “Journalists must be able to carry out their duties as enshrined in the constitution and this is why our theme for this year is defending journalists’ constitutional rights”.

“Many individuals have committed atrocities against journalists and media houses and they have not been brought to book. It is high time that this current government match words with actions on this day to protect journalists and media houses,” added Guled.

Guled urged journalists to remain ethical in this risky condition. “Journalists must realize that their work is hinged on the truth, respect for the rights of others and an obligation to work towards the collective good of the society. Anything other than that takes away from your journalism.”

Nimo Hassan Abdi of Somali Women Journalists Club articulated grave concerns over abuses and violations carried out against women journalists. “Women journalists are abused because they are female journalists. They are sexually exploited and even denied the small freedom male journalists are enjoying,” she said.

Nimo Hassan Abdi urged journalists to protect themselves as they carry out their duties, know their limits and not overstep boundaries especially under the current security challenges.

NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman presented an overview of the state of press freedom in Somalia since the last year’s commemoration. “In this country, journalists paid with their lives the price of exercising their right to press freedom”.

“In almost every corner of the country, journalists were harassed, intimidated, threatened, wounded and unlawfully jailed by governmental authorities and armed groups in a dreadful effort to block them from holding up a mirror to Somali people,” said Osman. “Media houses have been censured, suspended or closed down because they recount the realities in their communities”.

NUSOJ restated its strong concerns over the use of criminal justice system to prosecute journalists simply for doing their work. The participants of the meeting expressed that Somali authorities are misusing criminal laws against journalists, and the past year has seen journalists targeted. Several journalists have been jailed or prosecuted on spurious charges or accused of “crimes against the authorities” for legitimate reporting of an issue the public has an interest in knowing about.

The union called upon the federal government to cease forth the usage of criminal laws against journalists, and immediately start reforming the criminal law of Somalia in view of de-criminalization of defamation.

“The current media law is undemocratic and is incompatible with provisional constitution and international standards. This is our long standing view from the day it was passed by the parliament” said Osman. “Claims that the government wants to reform the media law will be shrouded in suspicion until it is progressively reformed,”

Journalists attending the commemorative event of the world press freedom day urged the federal government and regional governments not to impede the ability of the media to hold authorities to account or scrutinize their activities.

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