A delegation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), including its president Jim Boumelha and Executive Committee member Franco Siddi, today met Somalia’s Minister of Interior and Federal Affairs, Abdullahi Godah Barre, at the International Conference on the Challenges to Human Rights and Security in the Arab Region held in Doha.
The meeting, the first by the IFJ with a representative of the Federal Government of Somalia, took place in the presence of Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, an affiliate of the IFJ.
The delegation exchanged views with the minister on the difficult safety and security situation of journalists in Somalia as well as the concerns of the IFJ over the urgent need to tackle impunity, improve working conditions of journalists, and deal with the lack of professionalism of the media industry.
"As our first meeting with the Federal Government of Somalia, we were encouraged by the frankness of our discussion. Although the situation of journalists continues to be critical, we were pleased to meet a government official who is willing to help improve the situation and ensure that journalists are protected,” said Boumelha.
One of the main themes also under discussion was the independence of the IFJ affiliate, the NUSOJ, and the need to respect its integrity as the authoritative voice of Somali journalists. NUSOJ leaders, who have been at the forefront of the defense of Somali journalists against attacks on freedom of assembly and expression, have, as a result, been targeted by hostile elements in government.
Only last week, the minister of information, Mustaf Dhuhulow, gave the order to security forces to halt a conference the union was organising in Mogadishu to mark UN International Day against Impunity.
Minister Barre confirmed his government’s commitment to the safety, security and welfare of journalists, and its readiness to work with the IFJ and the NUSOJ in these areas.
“We welcome the minister’s assurance that the attacks on NUSOJ is not the result of a governmental decision, and his commitment that such a campaign against a trade union and its leadership by rogue elements within the ministry of information must stop,” said Siddi.
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The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries