Journalists walk to cover the scene of a car bomb on the Mogadishu-Afgoye road on 28 April 2021. | Photo/ Said Yusuf for SJS.

MOGADISHU, Somalia – On World Press Freedom Day, Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) once again calls for the safeguarding of press freedom and allow access to reliable information in an era of misinformation and threats as we also demand accountability for the crimes against journalists in Somalia.

As the world marked World Press Freedom Day with the theme “Information as Public Good”, SJS reviewed the record of violence against freedom of the press in Somalia for the past four months in 2021.

Somali journalists were once again subjected to violence and deliberate attacks by the security forces of the federal government, regional states and armed groups. Covering insecurity, the continued deadlock in federal elections and reports of allegations of corruption and human rights violations are key red line for media professionals. Journalists seeking to cover these issues often often face harassment and intimidation and many are forced to censor themselves. As the country is currently in a critical transition period, the problems have increased even more.

Attacks on press freedom in Somalia from 1 January - 30 April, 2021. (Source: SJS).
Attacks on press freedom in Somalia from 1 January – 30 April, 2021. (Source: SJS).

From January to April 2021 alone, 30 journalists were arrested, with two of them indicted and three media houses raided. All of these abuses were perpetrated by state security forces such as the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), Haramcad Police, security officers of the regional states of Puntland, Galmudug, South West and HirShabelle. Somaliland has jailed six journalists over the past four months. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the death of a journalist, while government security forces shot and wounded two journalists on duty.

Threats and attacks from government officials, private individuals and al-Shabaab are almost a daily occurrence. Somalia still maintains  its unenviable title as one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism globally.

Perpetrators of attacks on press freedom in Somalia in 2021.
Perpetrators of attacks on press freedom in Somalia in 2021.

Journalists’ access to information is extremely limited across the country. Media professionals are harassed and blocked from accessing public buildings including the Lower House of the Federal Parliaments and other government organizations. Authorities— whether at the federal level or at the regional levels — continue to not initiate investigations into murders or attacks against journalists and media workers.

Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) calls on the federal and regional states of Somalia to respect the right to freedom of the press as outlined in the Provisional Federal Constitution. Protecting journalists and media freedom is an important pillar in cherishing information as a public good.

“Free press plays a vital role in informing citizens about public affairs and monitoring the actions of government at all levels. When journalists are threatened, attacked, detained and their media houses raided that means citizens will not have the right to raise key issues affecting state-building and rule of law, which are important for Somalia’s governance,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “As we mark the World Press Freedom Day, today we reiterate our call for protection of free media in Somalia.”

The SJS further reminds Somali federal and regional authorities about their obligations to ensure that thorough and objective investigations are made of all cases of journalist killings, including the murder of the cameraman Abdirizak Kasim Iman who was shot dead by a police officer in July 2018 in Mogadishu.

“On World Press Freedom Day, we call both federal and regional states to stop its security forces from attacking, detaining, harassing and obstructing journalists. Somalia’s international partners should use their good offices in pressing all levels of government officials to ensure that all those responsible for attacks, harassment, and threats against journalists are held to account,” added Mr. Mumin.