The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) has joined the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in calling on the Somali authorities to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of the continual attacks on media workers in Somalia.
AFEX, a network of leading African freedom of expression advocates, outlined in a statement reasons why it supported the ACHPR’s Resolution on Attacks Against Journalists and Media Practitioners in the Federal Republic of Somalia, which was passed by the Commission at its 15th Extraordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, from March 7 to 14, 2014.
Resolution 264 “strongly condemns the serious violations of the right to life committed against journalists and media practitioners” and appealed for “the immediate cessation of harassment and intimidation aimed at independent media organisations” in Somalia. The ACHPR expressed particular concern for the targeting of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), which has been facing numerous restrictions and intimidations including negative labeling, prosecutions and the physical harassment and intimidation of its members.
In the Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontieres RSF) 2014 Press Freedom Index, Somalia ranked 176th out of 180 countries. In 2012, ACHPR released a similar resolution expressing deep concern about the number of journalists killed. The year 2012 was the country’s deadliest year on record, with the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) recording the killing of 18 journalists.
Also impinging on freedom of expression is the country’s lack of access to information legislation, institutionalized attacks on NUSOJ and the existence of various laws criminalising freedom of expression, including criminal defamation, in the penal code of Somalia.
On March 29, 2014 Sky FM editor and news presenter, Mr. Nuradin Hassan, was detained and is currently being held without charge. His detention is believed to be related to a report about a British advisor to the Prime Minister, whose passport went missing, disrupting his travel plans. According to reports, authorities claimed that the report contained misleading information and questioned Mr. Hassan about the source of his information.
AFEX said in its statement that it “wishes to join the ACHPR’s call for Somali authorities to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of the killing of media workers and other violations of journalists’ rights, cease attacks on the NUSOJ, guarantee union’s independence and to remember their international obligations to respect the rights to life, freedom of expression, and freedom of association and assembly. Journalism is not a crime and media workers have the right to do their job without constant threats to their life and liberty.”