The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today voiced serious concerns over “farcical” attempts to prosecute the head of its affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), after he spoke out against government policies on press freedom and journalists’ rights.
NUSOJ General Secretary Omar Faruk Osman has been summoned to respond to accusations of “organizing on 3 May a commemoration of world press freedom without authorisation from the Ministry of Information” “issuing on 6 May an abusive statement, as NUSOJ, which offended and defamed the Minister of Information of the Federal Government of Somalia, and was widely disseminated”, according to a letter from the Attorney General’s Office.
In a statement, the union reminded the authorities of the constitutional right contained in article 20, clause (1), stating that “every person has the right to organize and participate in meetings and to demonstrate and protest peacefully, without requiring prior authorization,” and blamed the Minister of Information for conspiring to seek legal action against Osman through “puppets boosted by that Minister”.
“These farcical accusations were formulated to instill fear and use intimidation through the Attorney General’s office. The continued abuse of office by those in power even when there is a change of government is a worrying practice,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger.
The IFJ rejects that holding a world press freedom day celebration and criticising the Minister of Information’s policies are criminal offices and blames the Federal Government of Somalia, specifically the Ministry of Information, for continuing anti-trade union activities against NUSOJ, - actions, including grave freedom of association abuses which have already been condemned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“We are concerned that there are efforts to compromise the independence and impartiality of Somalia’s judiciary and public prosecutors by government officials in order to curtail the rights and freedom of leaders and members of NUSOJ,” added Bellanger. “We hold Somalia’s Ministry of Information entirely responsible if anything happens to the leadership and members of NUSOJ, no matter any governmental institution it uses overtly or behind the curtain.”
The IFJ gives its full support to NUSOJ and its General Secretary, who is also a member of its Executive Committee.
“The charges against our colleague Omar Faruk Osman are completely scandalous and farfetched,” added IFJ President, Philippe Leruth. “The IFJ urges the Federal Government of Somalia to fully respect the right of freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, and to end attacks on independent trade union movement”.
This attack on NUSOJ comes weeks after Somalia’s State Attorney General Osman Elmi Guled told the Ministries of Information and Labour to fully comply with the recommendations of the ILO after the Somali government lost and NUSOJ won.
“Any hope for legal accountability and the just rule of law to be restored and respected in Somalia is fading. We see government officials who are disregarding the legal advice of State Attorney General, and operating as openly partisan and unaccountable authorities in order to suppress freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” added Bellanger.
The IFJ is joining forces with the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) to renew its solidarity to journalists and trade unions in Somalia in their fight against injustice, rights violations and abuse of public.