Somalia Media Freedom Landscape Remains in Turmoil


NUSOJ Releases Annual Report on State of Press Freedom in Somalia

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has released its report on press freedom in Somalia, the tenth in an annual series that reviews State of Press Freedom in the country.

NUSOJ’s annual report, titled “Press Freedom at Risk in Somalia” seeks to bring into sharp focus the diverse attacks against journalists and media houses in Somalia in 2014. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the state of press freedom, including chronological documentation of media freedom violations and legal repression against the media.

Over the year under review, efforts to silence the independent media have been brutally effective as politically motivated deaths; imprisonments and other attacks on journalists go on with impunity. A range of measures have been used to curb journalists’ freedom.

Although deadly violence against journalists eased during 2014, due to widespread self-censorship that made media less of a target, the media freedom landscape remains in turmoil.

The grim toll for 2014 was: five media workers murdered in Mogadishu, Galkayo and Baidoa; seven journalists injured; 47 journalists arrested; five media houses attacked; and repressive legislation enacted by the federal government and Puntland. The report features a nationwide increase in imprisoned journalists because of their journalism work.

“The murder of journalists has become part of the routine use of violence to control the independent media and is also part of a strategy to send a clear message to political opponents” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “The scourge of impunity of crimes against journalists is having a broader effect on Somali citizens as a whole, effectively choking off the flow of unrestricted news and information.”

Journalists in Mogadishu continued to face many challenges in trying to report on sensitive stories. Al-Shabaab remained the prime suspect of targeted killings of journalists while authorities of the Federal Government were directly or indirectly responsible for the arrest of journalists and the attack on Shabelle Media Network together with the introduction of an excessively harsh media law. Assurances made by the federal government to respect and protect media freedom remained empty promises.

Journalists in Somaliland have found themselves targeted in a pattern of increased intimidation and harassment by the Hargeisa authorities. Somaliland closed down a leading independent newspaper and maintained the shutdown of another independent newspaper.

Reporters and editors in Galkayo acknowledged that it was extremely difficult to conduct independent media work in the town. Galkayo continues to be second town for media in Somalia after Mogadishu. Journalists censored themselves because reporting fully and independently could prompt retribution. Journalists in Baidoa were not spared from the deadly violence by the extremists.

“Somali journalists in almost every main city or town of this country are contending with deadly violence, imprisonment, censorship and repressive laws,” announced Osman.

Omar Wardere is a Somali researcher, reporter and editor. He is a committee member of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and member of Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa.