The report, “Impunity: War on Somalia's Journalists”, details victimisation of journalists and the accompanying impunity of the perpetrators, which have been particularly prevalent since 2007, when remnants of the Islamic Courts Union and hard-line Islamic militants, driven out of Mogadishu at the end of December 2006, started their war against the allied forces of the Transitional Federal Government and the Ethiopian army and, later, African Union peace-keeping forces.
“The perpetrators of violence against journalists are able to escape punishment for their crimes, and without fear of consequences, culprits continue to carry out such acts,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
Forty-four media practitioners, all male and most of whom working with broadcast media were killed in Somalia between January 2007 and October 2012. Eighteen media workers were killed in the first 10 months of 2012; making this the deadliest year to practice journalism in Somalia, said the report released to observe the International Day to End Impunity, 23 November 2012, as declared by the Toronto-based, global network of free expression organisation, International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and its affiliated organisations, including NUSOJ.
“The report of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) “Impunity: War on Somalia's Journalists,” underscores the magnitude of the campaign of violence against Somali journalists and calls on the new Somali government to ensure that thorough and transparent investigations will lead to the arrest and trial of those who commit these crimes,” said Etienne de Poncins, Ambassador of France to Kenya and Somalia.
The report which is the first of its kind produced by a Somali civil society organization, explains that during the month of September 2012 alone, over 50% more journalists were murdered than in the whole of 2012, making that month the deadliest ever for Somali journalists, as seven journalists were killed, all in the capital city and within 11 days.
“Too many Somali journalists have been victims of pressure, and the nation as a whole has been the ultimate loser. When journalists are killed, and when fear drives survivors into self-censorship or exile, a society loses the very people who would otherwise be contributing to its lifeblood – i.e. to the ?ow of information,” said Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development of UNESCO.
Mogadishu remains the deadliest place to be a journalist in Somalia. 68% of killings of journalists since 2007 happened in this city. Galkayo is the second deadliest place to practice journalism in the country, with four journalists killed in six years, the report added.
“There is plenty of evidence showing that it is not only the Islamist insurgent groups that have been targeting journalists. Somali broadcasters and journalists have always operated in an extremely hostile environment where they are also muzzled by the authorities in power or by their henchmen and supporters who want them silenced,” said Jim Boumelha, President of International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The international press freedom advocacy organisation, Reporters without Borders, NUSOJ's partner organisation, said: “the lack of resources and the disastrous state of government institutions is one reason but the chaos does not account for everything. Those who kill journalists are not only to be found within the clans or the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab, but also within the transitional federal government and the regional governments in Puntland and Somaliland, where media revelations about corruption and bad governance are resented.”
The French National Journalists Union (SNJ), NUSOJ's sister union in France, said the most cause of concern in this dangerous environment which made Somalia as one of the most perilous places for journalists in the world is the impunity granted to the authors of these killings. It is urgent to put an end to this culture of impunity, said SNJ in statement.
The report calls on the Federal Government of Somalia to “publically condemn all forms of violence against journalists as a violation of the right to life, the right to freedom of expression and the public's right to be informed” and to “immediately institute investigations and inquiries into the deaths of more than 40 journalists in order to bring all the perpetrators to trial”, while requesting world community to “assist the federal government of Somalia to put in place effective and functional public law and order management sector”.
This report highlights the situation of freedom of expression and the media in Somalia and threats encountered by journalists on a regular basis, particularly unpunished and murderous crimes against journalists. It draws the attention of the Somali authorities, the international community, media and human rights organisations to the unprecedented levels of impunity in Somalia.