Silencing journalists with targeted attacks, restrictions and censorship in precarious working conditions

MOGADISHU, Somalia, January 10, 2022 – Somali journalists have once again been subjected to violence and deliberate attacks by security forces from the federal government, regional states and the militant group al-Shabaab. Insecurity, the continuing stalemate in federal elections, and reports of allegations of human rights violations, abuse of power and corruption in government are the key red line for media professionals in Somalia. Journalists who seek to cover these issues are often victims of arbitrary detention, death threats, harassment and intimidation, and many are forced to self-censor. With the country still in a critical transition period at the end of 2021, the problems have escalated further.

Journalists are taking increased risks across Somalia, including Somaliland. Various forms of violence against journalists have increased dramatically in 2021: from physical assaults, bullying and harassment, to targeted cyberbullying, we are now seeing a number of tactics being used to silence critical voices and freedom of expression. ‘expression. With the culture of impunity prevalent for perpetrators of crimes against journalists, this is one of the most serious challenges facing media freedom in Somalia. Sadly, self-censorship or abandoning the profession has now become the only survival option for journalists in Somalia.

Two journalists were murdered in the country in 2021 and three others were seriously injured – two of them with gunshots. 65 journalists were arbitrarily detained and seven press houses searched. The majority of these violations were perpetrated by state security forces such as the National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA), Turkish Haramcad Police, regional state security officers in Puntland, Galmudug, South West and HirShabelle. Attacks on the free press have increased in Somaliland, where 12 journalists were arbitrarily arrested during the year. Al-Shabaab took credit for the deaths of the two journalists murdered in Galkayo and Mogadishu, while government security forces shot and injured two journalists on duty.

Threats and attacks from government officials, individuals and al-Shabaab are almost daily. Somalia still retains its unenviable title of being among the most dangerous countries to practice journalism in the world. For the seventh year in a row, Somalia has maintained ignominy world title for impunity against crimes against journalists as journalist killers roam free.

Journalists’ access to information is extremely limited across the country. In 2021, as the impact of Covid19 continues to plague the Somali community, journalists struggled to get information on the government’s response to the pandemic and the vaccine. The denial of journalists’ access to information by federal and state health authorities, in violation of national and international legal obligations, has thwarted public efforts to save lives and reduce the spread of disinformation and fake news hampering dissemination. vaccination in the country.

Local media editors, reporters and producers have revealed how the Federal Health Ministry has imposed secrecy to limit criticism of bad decisions or hide allegations of corruption as the pandemic takes hold in all. corners of the country. In many cases, federal and regional states have deliberately blocked, detained, harassed and threatened journalists covering the elections – especially in disputes and complaints related to the upper and lower house elections.

Throughout the year, the federal police in Mogadishu denied journalists access to information relating to the disappearance of Ikran Tahlil Farah, an intelligence worker who disappeared at the end of June 2021, and to information about young Somali recruits who were allegedly transferred to Eritrean training camps as numerous public protests demanding information on their fate were repeatedly dispersed.

Precarious working conditions, low wages, lack of employment contracts and lack of occupational health and safety continue to affect Somali media workers. Since the start of the epidemic in the country, media workers have been particularly vulnerable and many journalists have been infected with the infection, although no deaths have been reported. Somalia does not have a statutory minimum wage and a new federal labor law, which could spell out labor rights and conditions of employment, is still under development.

The Somali Journalists Union (SJS) calls on the federal and regional states of Somalia to respect the right to freedom of the press as defined in the Interim Federal Constitution. Protecting journalists and media freedom is an important pillar in promoting information as a public good.

The free press plays an essential role in informing citizens about public affairs and monitoring government actions at all levels. When journalists are threatened, attacked, detained, and their media houses raided, it means citizens will be denied the right to raise key issues affecting state building and the rule of law, which are important for the governance of Somalia.

The SJS further reminds the Somali federal and regional authorities of their obligation to ensure that thorough and objective investigations are carried out into all cases of murders of journalists, including the murder of the cameraman, Abdirizak Kasim Iman, who was shot dead by a police officer in July 2018 in Mogadishu.

The report presented here is based on interviews with local journalists, media directors, family members of affected journalists, civil society representatives and government officials. It covers violations against journalists and press freedom, including threats, harassment, arrests, censorship, physical attacks and killings of journalists in Somalia, including Somaliland, which took place from 1 January to December 31, 2021.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin,

General Secretary, Union of Somali Journalists

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