The Human Rights Journalists (HRJ) has today welcomed the report of the Amnesty International on the worsening situation of freedom of Expression in Somalia. The report which titled, “We live in perpetual fear” sheds light on the concerns over endless attacks on journalists and violations of freedom expression in Somalia. The facts in the report were unarguably concrete.
“There is a depressing situation faced by journalists, and media houses in Somalia”, said chairman of Human Rights Journalists, Ismail Sheikh Khalifa. “The Federal Government carries out numerous violations against journalists including intimidations, arrests and prosecution of journalists on account of their professional work. Journalists have been physically assaulted by members of security agencies for reporting on corruption or other government misdemeanors”, the chairman added.
In some cases, media houses were bribed to stop giving platform to government critics, make self-censorship and not to broadcast or publish any news or views that are antagonistic to the Federal Government of Somalia. Some of the managers of the paid media outlets told HRJ that the FG disbursed $4.000 (Four thousand dollar) to the radio stations and $8.000 (Eight thousand dollar) to the TV channels every month. Only one TV was paid $ 15.000 (Fifteen thousand dollar) every month. The FG employed hundreds of social media users who revile journalists or anyone else for posting anything that is unfavorable to the government. The government also hired IT experts to disable the personal Facebook accounts of journalists who write against the Somali government. The communication office of the president is in charge of paying illicit funds to the corrupt media outlets and Facebook gangs.
A media law approved by both houses of the parliament and now waiting for the president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo to sign is criminalizing journalism and introduces hefty fines. It establishes a media council that is fully controlled by the government. The draconian provisions in the Somali media law will surely threaten press freedom in the country. The Human Rights Journalists proposes that the media law should drastically be reviewed again to guarantee press freedom and to protect journalists.
National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) pose clear threat to Somali journalists. They intimidate, beat and arbitrarily arrest journalists. Many journalists fled the country and live in exile because of the parallel threats coming from Al Shabaab and security agencies of the FG of Somalia.
The HRJ believes the Somali Government has failed to meet international and regional human rights obligations, which has resulted in rampant culture of impunity, political interference and smear campaigns targeting critical media outlets and journalists.
Finally, the Human Rights Journalists (HRJ) urges the Federal Government of Somalia to conduct prompt and effective investigations into crimes against journalists and bring those responsible for the press freedom and freedom of expression violations to book.