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NUSOJ Commemorates International to End Impunity

By National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
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MOGADISHU, Somalia, November 24, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) commemorated International day to End Impunity of crimes committed against journalists on 23 November in Nairobi, Kenya, to honor Somali journalists who have been suppressed forever for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to raise awareness about deadly violence against journalists as well as rampant culture of impunity in Somalia.

Entitled “Conference on Confronting Impunity in Somalia: protecting journalists”, media professionals, human rights activists, representatives from Transitional Federal Institutions of the government and the parliament, members of international community and civil society representatives discussed the war on Somali journalists; causes of impunity in Somalia; and violations of Somali journalists' rights.

Speakers of the conference emphasized the need for more protection for journalists in the line of duty and the importance of combatting the rampant culture of impunity in Somalia to protect and promote human rights and restore peace and stability.

“The number of threats and deadly attacks leveled against Somali journalists has mounted steadily during the last 3 years. Journalists are under attack from both organized militia groups and established administrations in Somalia. 26 journalists were murdered cold-bloodedly since February 2007 in south-central and Puntland regions,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, who welcomed participants of the conference.

“We appealed to Somali authorities to investigate and persecute the perpetrators of these dreadful crimes against our journalists but all they informed us was they lack the jurisdiction and the capacity to
act,” he added.

NUSOJ called for effective investigations by the relevant authorities into all crimes committed against Somali journalists and related human rights violations and urged the authorities to bring suspected perpetrators of such human rights violations to justice without further delay.

Assessing the level of violence against journalists, NUSOJ observed that Al-Shabaab and other organized militia groups will probably kidnap and kill independent and critical journalists while the later are more likely to face arrest, beatings and detention in the hands of authorities of Transitional federal Government, Puntland and Somaliland.

Speaker of Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia (TFP), Honorable Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, joined all those who commemorated “the courageous work of Somali journalists who constantly risk their lives, their work and their liberty to tell the truth”.

“We condemn heartless killings of 26 journalists since 2007 and other organized crimes against journalists in our country. It is disastrous and deplorable that the number of Somali journalists killed in the line of journalistic work continues every year and has become an indicator of media freedom violations in our country,” said honorable Aden who sent a message to the conference.

On the occasion of International Day to End Impunity, Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) publicly affirmed that human rights violations would not be tolerated.

“We are taking measures to stop violence against Somali journalists and associated human rights violations and end impunity,” said Abdurahman Hosh Jibril, Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Reconciliation of Somalia, who told conference participants that his government wants to guarantee that journalists are allowed to do their work free of harassment, violence and maltreatment.

“Australia condemns the threat and use of violence against, and intimidation and arbitrary arrest of, journalists and human rights defenders worldwide,” said Paul Dziatkowiec, Deputy High Commissioner of Australia, who addressed the conference. “We recognise the constraints under which the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) operates, and the fact that many serious human rights violations are perpetrated by militant groups in areas not controlled by the TFG. Nevertheless, we have urged the TFG to ensure that its forces are mindful of international human rights and humanitarian law obligations, and to take a more active role in protecting human rights more broadly.”

Mr. Dziatkowiec recalled, “Article 20 of the Transitional Federal Charter guarantees the freedom of press and independent media” and added Australia looks to “the TFG to ensure that this provision is protected in practice, in the areas under its control. Of course, abuses of the freedom of the press must be properly investigated and prosecuted by the relevant authorities”.

While admitting that the current government of Somalia is transitional administration, Somali Ambassador to Kenya, Mohamad Ali Noor, told the conference that the history of human rights violations, which motivate the current Somali crisis, should be addressed.

“Somali government is taking concrete actions to end impunity for attacks on journalists and to protect those facing intimidation, violent threats and harassment,” he added.

Commissioner Hassan Omar Hassan of Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) who made keynote speech at the conference indicated that no investigations were made into murders of Somali journalists to clarify the facts, identify the perpetrators, make arrests, and bring perpetrators to justice.

“We urge Somali authorities to refrain from acts of violence and related human rights violations against journalists and end impunity,” he said.

The killing of 26 Somali journalists since 2007 makes Somalia one of the dangerous countries for a journalist globally, said Henry Maina, Eastern Africa Director of ARTICLE 19. “That most if not all the 26 cases have not been independently investigated and those culpable brought to justice leaves many questions unanswered. Such levels of ongoing impunity in Somalia are despicable and must be stopped,” he said.

“Independent journalists of Somalia cannot continue to do their work unless they take sides with the different faction warring in Somalia which makes Somalia the worst place for one to seek to be a journalists,” added Maina.

ARTICLE 19 called on all parties in Somalia including African Union Peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Kenya Defence Forces to immediately make an undertaking to treat journalists as civilians and protect them as required by International Human Rights Law and UN Resolution 1738.

Mrs. Najma Ahmed Abdi, Chairlady of Somali Youth Leadership Forum (SYLF) deplored widespread culture of impunity in Somalia and underlined that administrations in Somalia have a duty to prevent and punish human rights violations.

“Most of murdered journalists are young reporters who would have been the future of Somalia and, sadly, they were killed for telling the truth. We, therefore, call on authorities to initiate independent investigations on the killings, intimidation and threats of violence against journalists, regardless of the political affiliation of the suspected perpetrators, and ensure that those who commit such crimes are brought to justice in accordance with international standards of fair trail,” she said.

Transparency International (TI) stated that corruption is fueling rampant culture of impunity in Somalia and is undermining accountability and justice.

“Because of the breakdown of the State, corruption in Somalia is rampant and has grown worse over the years. Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliament, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society; when these institutions are weak, corruption spirals out of control,” said Sheila Masinde, Advocacy & Communications Programme of Transparency International Kenya.

At the end of the conference, participants made following recommendations:

TO SOMALI AUTHORITIES:

a) THAT the leadership of Somali authorities and administrations end with immediate effect the culture of impunity within their administrations.

b) THAT the authorities and parliament of Somalia establish an independent, transparent and fearless anti-corruption commission to combat the rampant culture of corruption, which inspires impunity in Somalia.

c) THAT the Somali authorities desist from the systemic attacks against journalists and media houses.

d) THAT the administrations in Somalia provide a conducive environment for the practice of safe journalism and the realization of freedom of expression and the people's right to know.

e) THAT the administrations in Somalia arrest and prefer criminal charges against persons, regardless of their political affiliation, who have infringed on and failed to respect media rights.

f) THAT the administrations in Somalia enact laws that promote access to information, freedom of expression and the safe practice of journalism in Somalia, and end the use of criminal code of Somalia to suppress freedom of expression and of the press.

g) THAT the administrations in Somalia empower the judiciary to be an effective arbiter and point of redress for journalists against whom acts of violence and intimidation have been meted.

h) THAT the Judicial systems in Somaliland, Puntland and the Transitional Federal Government controlled parts of Somalia desist from being used as tools for oppressing journalists but should be proactive in defending the rights of journalists as stipulated in various international instruments, to wit, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Transitional Federal Charter.

i) THAT police and security officers serving in Somalia be trained and educated on human rights in general and particularly the right to know, the right to freedom of expression and the rights of journalists to work without intimidation or threats.

TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY:

a) THAT the United Nations, the African Union, League of Arab States and the concerned members of International Community do stand up and condemn the systemic attacks on journalists and media houses in Somalia.

b) THAT the international community condemns the acts of impunity perpetuated by officers of the recognized Somali authorities and administrations.

c) THAT the United Nations send the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to investigate acts of aggression committed against journalists and media houses in Somalia and make recommendations for redress.

d) THAT the African Union send the AU Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information to Somalia to investigate and document acts of oppression committed against media houses and journalists in Somalia and make recommendations for redress.

e) THAT the international community demands for the respect and enforcement of the rights of journalists and media houses in Somalia by both the state and armed non-state actors.

f) THAT the international community imposes stringent measures to the authorities in Somalia to end impunity in their administrations as a condition to the continued financial and political support.

g) THAT the international community demand for and support the establishment of an independent judiciary, an independent anti-corruption authority and a police service that respects, protects and promotes the human rights of the people of Somalia.

h) THAT the international community helps train and enhance the capacity of journalists and media owners in Somalia to understand their fundamental rights, anti-corruption strategies and effective ways of reporting impunity.

TO THE CIVIL SOCIETY AND PEOPLE OF SOMALIA:

a) THAT civil society and the people of Somalia be vigilant and condemn acts of oppression against journalists by the state and other interested players.

b) THAT the civil society extends their solidarity with and support to Somali journalists working in dangerous environment.

c) THAT the civil society in collaboration with media carry out a national campaign on tackling impunity, demand for the respect of the rule of law and enforcement of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Somalia.

d) THAT the civil society does take measures to expose corruption and the rampant culture of impunity in Somalia and expose the perpetrators of these vices.

e) THAT the people of Somalia and civil society enforce and demand for the respect of the rights of Somali journalists.

TO JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA:

a) THAT, despite the hardships facing journalists and media houses in Somalia, they should stay true to the journalistic calling of bringing out the message.

b) THAT they stand in solidarity with one another and watch out for the profession's interests and welfare.

c) THAT the quest for which they suffer today is a noble quest that they should not give up on despite the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

d) THAT they should not be cowed or intimidated by the persistent threats and hostile work environment they operate in.

e) THAT they desist from and resist political, economical and social influences that undermine the independence and credibility of the profession.