SJS Women journalists complete training and pose for a group photo in Mogadishu on Monday 22 January, 2024. | PHOTO/ SJS.
SJS Women journalists complete training and pose for a group photo in Mogadishu on Monday 22 January, 2024. | PHOTO/ SJS.

MOGADISHU, Somalia 23 January 2024 – The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemns the interference, harassment and blocking SJS women journalists’ training in Mogadishu on Saturday by the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), as we demand those responsible to be held accountable for their actions.

On mid-day of Saturday, January 20, 2024, in the midst of a human rights-focused training session for SJS women journalists, three NISA officers, led by Mohamed Fooxle and Hassan Dahir from the surveillance unit, unexpectedly arrived at Hotel Sahafi in Mogadishu where the training was held. Engaging in disruptive behavior, they harassed hotel staff, trainers, and participants, insisting on obtaining the list of participants, training content, and other related documents. Despite efforts by SJS and hotel management to explain the nature of the training, while emphasizing the need to protect the privacy of participants. The NISA officers ordered an abrupt halt to the day’s session, concluding it an hour earlier than scheduled.

On the morning of Sunday, January 21, at approximately 8:00 am local time, the two officers, Mohamed Fooxle and Hassan Dahir, requested a meeting with SJS representatives through the hotel management. SJS declined the request as the said meeting was neither official nor was it taking place in a public place. Subsequently, SJS successfully relocated the training participants to an alternative venue, allowing the session to continue on both Sunday and Monday. We are pleased to report that we were able to conclude our training successfully and safely in the new location with a powerful message from our women participants reminding importance of women in our society and demanding respect and protection.

With the support from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), this SJS women journalists training activity forms a part of an initiative intended to enhance capacity of women reporters from diverse communities with a focus on reporting human rights abuses including, but not limited, to the advocacy of the rights of vulnerable communities such as women, displacement populations and those living in conflict-prone areas.

SJS vehemently denounces the actions taken by NISA and urges a thorough investigation to hold those involved accountable. The interference and obstruction of journalists’ training by NISA officers represent a grave violation of press freedom, freedom of expression, and human rights. Such actions hinder the cultivation of a resilient and independent media, a cornerstone for the vitality of democratic societies. Attempts to impede the education of journalists undermine fundamental principles of transparency, accountability, and the unrestricted flow of information.

Separately, on 22 January, NISA and police officers denied access Somali Cable TV journalists who were trying to cover the parliament’s Lower House proceedings of the day.  The journalists told SJS that the reason was linked to a video clip aired on Saturday, showing a Member of Parliament spraying water on parliament officials during the opening of the Saturday session.

“Rather than providing security to the citizens of Mogadishu, who already face pervasive insecurity, it is disheartening to witness NISA expend its efforts on surveilling on human rights journalists’ training. They should be ashamed of that. We unequivocally condemn their actions. These actions should be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable,” stated Abdalle Mumin, Secretary-General of SJS.

“We thank our participants, facilitators and our staff members who despite these challenges continued to carry out their work with utmost dedication and courage. We also thank our partners at the Canadian High Commission and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI),” Mumin added.