Entrenching safe journalism: Blueprint adopted to protect journalists’ right to life and media freedom in Somalia

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MOGADISHU – A three-day Consultative Forum on the Safety and Security of Somali Journalists ended in Mogadishu, yesterday on a high note, with over 60 journalists reflecting on the safety crisis engulfing the media industry in Somalia.

The forum discussed the chronic law and order vacuum, the impunity that fuels the litany of media rights abuses in the country, and adopted a national action plan (NAP), highlighting immediate steps that can be taken to eradicate the culture of impunity.

Abdulkadir Farah (L), Omar Faruk Osman (C) and Abdi Adan Guled (R)

Organised by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), in partnership with the African Union (AU) multidimensional mission for Somalia, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), the forum was held from 3 to 5 September 2022.

Participants

Participants addressed pressing occupational safety and security issues, encompassing the physical, legal, psychosocial, and digital safety of journalists. They also discussed the unique safety challenges facing female journalists, who in addition to risks they share with their male counterparts, also face gendered abuses.

NUSOJ Deputy President Abdi Adan Guled (L) and Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ SG

Inspired by the African Union initiative on “Silencing the Guns”, the theme of the forum was “Silencing the Guns: Protecting the Safety and Security of Somali Journalists.” The forum created an opportunity for media professionals to advocate for the domestication of this initiative in Somalia, as a way of committing the Federal Government and Federal Member States to end the spiral of violence targeting journalists.

Participants in interactive discussions

The deliberations focused on the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue Impunity, to assess what has worked and the unresolved issues and challenges after ten (10) years of existence and how best to utilize it for safeguarding the safety and security of journalists.

H.E. Minister Dr Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali (Doodishe), in the middle, addressing the consultative forum

To highlight the sensitivity of the subject, and the need for immediate remedies, the consultative forum was graced by the Federal Minister for Internal Security, Dr Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali (Doodishe) who expressed his total sympathy for journalists and their need for a conducive and safe work environment.

H.E. Minister Dr Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali (Doodishe)

“Your safety and freedoms are non-negotiable. They are protected by our constitution, and on behalf of my Ministry I want to assure you that your safety and security is of uttermost priority for us because you are citizens who deserve to be protected as you significantly contribute to the development of our society” said Minister Dr Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali.

H.E. Minister Dr Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali (Doodishe)

“I am glad that you are participating in such an important forum, discussing pertinent security issues for your life and profession, and I am here not only to speak to you but also to listen to you. I will improve relations between journalists and the security forces so that you operate in a conducive environment, but I encourage you to remain professional and ethical and act responsibly” added Minister Dr. Mohamed.

Ms. Fiona Lortan, Acting Head of ATMIS and Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC)

On behalf of the African Union and its mission, Ms. Fiona Lortan, Acting Head of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, extended solidarity to Somali journalists and reaffirmed the commitment of the pan-African body to securing the safety and security of journalists and media freedom to achieve a peaceful and stable Somalia.

Ms. Fiona Lortan, Acting Head of ATMIS and Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC)

“Media professionals have always played an important role in early warning, crisis response and post-conflict interventions at various levels, and in effectively contributing to conflict prevention, management and resolution,” said Lortan.

Guests Joining Virtually

Ms. Lortan, who underlined the importance of the African Union initiative of “Silencing the Guns” and its relevance to Somalia, explained that the framework on “Silencing the Guns,” is based on the political commitment of African Union member states to eradicate the underlying causes, triggers and factors fuelling conflict.

Journalists in Group Work

“This places governance at the heart of efforts to address and end conflicts on the continent, and therefore also places the right to information, and freedom of expression at the heart of peace and security. This is the very reason that we want to support Somali journalists to operate in a safe and peaceful environment in their country” noted Lortan.

UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information Misako Ito

Speaking on behalf of UNESCO, the lead UN agency for freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, Ms. Misako Ito, the UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information, restated UNESCO’s concerted efforts to protect the safety of journalists. Misako Ito expounded in great length the UN Plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity and engaged in interactive discussions with journalists.

UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information Misako Ito

“UNESCO realized that the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity require a solution that is of much greater impact, and able to bring different stakeholders with different expertise, resources, network and interest to put a positive change. Hence the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was born in 2012 and since then it has become a global reference point in the discussion of safety of journalists,” said Misako Ito.

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