MOGADISHU, Somalia, 29 September 2020 – On the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Somali Media Association (SOMA) bemoan and strongly reject President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s comments on Saturday night 26 September, when he linked journalists critical to his administration to al-Shabaab and blamed them for lack of knowledge without providing any single evidence.
In addition to the generalized ongoing violence against journalists, authorities in Somalia have often invoked alleged national security concerns and the fight against Al-Shabaab as a basis to attack journalists, shut down media houses, restrict the right to freedom of expression and access to information.
Somali journalists have been working under precarious conditions. About 70 journalists and media professionals were murdered in the line of duty since 1992 and 10 of them were killed since 2017 when President Farmajo took office. Number of journalists fleeing the country, due to safety reasons, also rose up. Journalists not only face endless violations and assassinations but their perpetrators almost always get away with impunity.
“It is pitiful to see the Head of State- someone supposed to call for the protection of journalists and condemn the violations against the press- publicly linking journalists to terrorists. This is very dangerous and we call for the Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo to retract his comment and condemn all violations against the journalists and the media,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “Ahead of the elections, Somalia’s international partners should support efforts to improve safety of journalists and encourage the Somali government to stop human rights violations and abuses including attacks on media freedoms and carry out impartial, independent, transparent and effective investigations into all violations and attacks against journalists and other media houses.”
“We express grave concerns that such comments by the Head of State in this critical time will not only endanger the safety of working journalists and media houses but also amount to a green light to the security forces to carry out further attacks against journalists and media houses with impunity in the pretext of countering al-Shabaab,” Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) said.
SJS and SOMA also reject the President’s notion to describe the media law he signed recently as the “first one that gives rights to the journalists”. Contrary to the President’s claim, the Somali Media Law was first signed in January 2016 and the amendment started in March 2017. Further the amended version of the Media Law contains problematic and draconian provisions that threaten media freedom and the safety of the journalists.