Eastern Africa Journalists Support Unity and Reconciliation in Somalia

The East African Journalists Association (EAJA) Statement on Somali Reconciliation and Unity Conference, Mogadishu, August 25 - 30, 2004

The East African Journalists Association (EAJA) salutes Somalia journalists and the entire media fraternity in Somalia. EAJA, a regional body for journalists’ Trade Unions and Associations, supports all efforts geared towards the enhancement of peace, unity and reconciliation of Somali journalists.

We in collaboration with our international body, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to which we are affiliated, have trust and confidence in Mr. Herbert Lumansi, the IFJ Regional Advisor for Africa, that he will diligently mediate in the disagreements that tend to divide the media in Somalia. The IFJ representative is currently achieving a mission in Somalia, with the support of the Danish organisation International Media Support. The Unity and Reconciliation meeting of August 16 – 30, 2004 should form the basis of solving disunity problems in Somalia for the good of the country, Africa and the World over.

We are calling upon the people of Somalia, especially the politicians and leaders of civil society to bury their differences and help to facilitate the establishment of a strong, unity and progressive media in the country. Regional and international bodies have in the past failed to integrate Somalia journalists into their programmes because of disunity within the media fraternity.

The warring factions in Somalia should not been seen as enemies but as opponents fighting for the same cause although using different means and forum, and must be encouraged to work together for the good of the media. Journalists who by coincidence belong to either faction should not act oppressively against colleagues in other factions and should desist from actions that tend to appear to be fighting each other, or can be construed to appear to be doing so.

While it is healthy and in order to have as many journalists associations in Somalia as possible that can even seek affiliation from the IFJ, the current circumstances call for the establishment of only one association/Journalists Trade Union that can seek affiliation from the IFJ.

Somali journalists should strive and form a united and vibrant association that can protect the interests of the Somali and enhance media freedom and freedom of expression.

EAJA calls on you to identify yourself as Somali journalists and desists from directly or indirectly branding themselves tags that identify them with the various political/social factions. We believe the direct mix – up of media related affairs with politics has tended to divide Somali journalists instead of uniting them. Unity should be your first goal then other objectives can be achieved.

Unity must act as an essential vehicle to cultivate, strengthen and promote unity to the whole of Somalia and neighbouring countries. It is after unity has been achieved in that “Horn of Africa” the Somali journalists can speak with one voice and get off the ground – joining the rest of the world fraternity.

We believe Somalia has the potential to play a paramount role in the promotion of Press Freedom and Freedom of expression.

EAJA and indeed IFJ will always be at your disposal to assist your work collectively for the good of enhancing a media friendly Somalia. We must collectively fight draconian laws that are embedded at curtailing press freedom and freedom of expression.

Stephen Ouma Bwire

EAJA General Secretary