The annual report of the National Union of Somali Journalists, a partner organization of Reporters Without Borders, paints a worrying picture of abuses suffered by the media in 2011 and condemns the silence and impunity that surround crimes against journalists.
The report on the state of press freedom, published yesterday, said 2011 was worse than 2010 and lists four journalists killed, seven wounded and 19 arbitrarily arrested, as well as seven attacks on media organizations and at least five prosecutions for criminal defamation.
The organization deplores the fact that journalists were targeted by the authorities and the security forces, and also by militias and individuals. It says attacks were not only politically motivated and systematic but also institutionalized, depriving journalists of the ability to carry out their work without fear.
The report, entitled “Lives and Rights of Journalists Under Threat”, notes an increase in prosecutions of journalists in the semi-autonomous north-eastern region of Puntland and the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland in the north, as a new means of clamping down on the media and restricting the flow of information.
The Mogadishu region, which is in the hands of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was the most dangerous part of the country for freedom of information, it said. It was followed by Somaliland, where the number of prosecutions for criminal defamation, slander and false news has escalated.
In third place was Puntland, where there were closures of media organizations, criminal prosecutions and other mistreatment of journalists.
The report says the NUSOJ considers impunity “the foremost, albeit silent, enemy of journalists and press freedom”.
It appeals to the TFG, Somaliland and Puntland authorities:
To adopt and implement a consistent policy of zero-tolerance for crimes against journalists and media organizations as the only way to ensure reliable practice to respect, protect, defend and promote press freedom.
To bring police and other security forces under control by immediately stopping the harassment, brutality, arbitrary arrests, and even killing, regularly perpetrated against journalists and media organisations and to ensure full accountability for previous violations.
To promptly cease violations of journalists’ right to freedom of association and to stop threats of criminal prosecution against journalists, including their organisations and leaders.
The NUSOJ calls on the international community to make their support of, and cooperation with, Somali authorities conditional on respect and protection of the fundamental rights of journalists, and of the people of Somalia in general.