Marking the National Press Day of Somalia, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today joined the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) to highlight the country's abysmal press freedom record and the high level of impunity for those who attack or kill journalists.
According to IFJ affiliate, the NUSOJ, the climate for media freedom looks increasingly bleak in almost every region of the country, with intimidation, threats and violence against journalists increasing dramatically over the last year. While media deaths have declined, six media workers have been murdered in the country since 21 January 2013. The Somali federal government has introduced a draft media law that imposes harsh restrictions on the ability of journalists to report freely, independent media houses have been attacked and journalists have been arrested on trumped up charges.
Journalists have also faced extensive censorship and the threat of violence. Somalia's bloody violence has earned the country a reputation as the most dangerous place in Africa for journalists, according to IFJ records. "On the occasion of National Press Day of Somalia, we want to reiterate that Somalia remains a highly unsafe place for journalists to work, a circumstance that is exacerbated when killers have impunity," Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director said. "Somali authorities must change aggressive anti-press stances".
This year, the NUSOJ and the IFJ witnessed an attack against Shabelle Media Network, a leading independent media group in Mogadishu, which became a victim of an organised campaign to silence outspoken journalists on its radio stations, Radio Shabelle and Sky FM. The stations had reported on politically sensitive issues in ways that were critical of the federal government.
In light of the attacks on Shabelle, the IFJ and the NUSOJ have observed that space for critical and independent reporting in Somalia is quickly shrinking in the hands of the Federal Government, despite promises when it came to power that it would improve media freedom.
"Somali authorities are becoming increasingly repressive toward the media and critical voices. The slayings of journalists have gone unpunished, which is one of the worst records of impunity in the country," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "Today we have nothing to celebrate, and instead we must again express our grave concern about the perilous climate of media freedom in our country."
The IFJ and the NUSOJ call on the Somali Federal Government, Somaliland, Puntland and other regional authorities to allow journalists in their respective territories to work openly and freely without fearing for their lives. "A vibrant independent media is necessary for sustainable development, long-term peace and stability, and a healthy development in Somalia," added Baglo.
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The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries