Somalia: 2021 saw growing threat to media freedom 

Media freedom and safety came under systematic attack in 2021, with the killing of two journalists and the arrest of 34 media workers, a shocking new report by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has revealed. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) echoes its Somali affiliate's urgent call on the authorities to stop undermining media freedom and to take action to end impunity for crimes against media workers.

In its annual report on the state of media freedom in Somalia "Trail of Violence: Somali journalists bear the brunt of impunity", NUSOJ documented all the attacks and efforts to silence independent media including politically motivated killings and arbitrary imprisonment on charges of "abusive exercise of a profession'.

Freelance journalist Jamal Farah Adan was shot dead by two gunmen on March 1 in Galkayo city, while journalist Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled was killed on 20 November in a targeted attack by a suicide bomber in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Both crimes were committed by the Al-Shabaab armed group.

Four killers were recently convicted for their role in the murder of Jamal Farah Adan. Despite welcoming the step forward to end impunity for crimes against journalists, the NUSOJ and the IFJ opposed the ruling of death penalties and called for them to be commuted to custodial punishment on appeal.

The report also recorded sixty-three violent cases of harassment, illegal detention, arrest, torture, cyber-stalking, and threats against journalists and media organizations. Four different media facilities were attacked last year, demonstrating a public and concerted effort to intimidate and undermine their freedom to report. 

Separately, the report shows an important rise in attacks against women journalists, highlighting the prevalence of gender-based violence in the country.

The major threat to journalists' safety comes from Al-Shabaab armed group, which claimed the two killings of journalists in 2021, while federal government authorities are mostly responsible for the arrest of journalists. The assurances given by the federal government to respect and protect media freedom remain empty promises.

The IFJ has been working for many years with NUSOJ to address the plight of journalists in Somalia. In September 2019, the IFJ and NUSOJ called on the UN Human Rights Council to protect press freedom in Somalia. In November 2021, the IFJ and its affiliates sent letters to Somali embassies and its president calling for urgent action to end impunity for crimes against journalists. 

Somalia is, according to IFJ figures, one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Since 2010, 57 journalists have been killed and there have been only four prosecutions.

NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said: "This kind of report should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that journalists and media organisations in Somalia work in extremely dangerous conditions. However, while this comes as no surprise, it is important for the public to understand the culture of impunity under which these attacks and killings take place."

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "The numbers of attacks on media workers in Somalia continue to be shocking. We will keep working with the NUSOJ to put pressure on the national authorities and use all available international mechanisms to protect the rights of our Somali colleagues".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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