President H.E Hassan Shiekh Mahamud
Federal Republic of Somalia
Copy to: Prime Minister H.E. Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid
Federal Republic of Somalia
15 October 2012
We, the undersigned global free expression and journalism organisations, write to you regarding the widespread, systematic and gross violations of freedom of expression and acts of deadly violence that have plagued journalists in Somalia.
As the transition period in Somalia comes to an end, Somali journalists fear that they will be targeted by competing political forces. This year has already turned out to be the most deadly year for Somali journalists in the country's history - with 15 journalists killed, including seven journalists murdered in Mogadishu alone since 10 September 2012, when you were elected as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.
Somalia's poor freedom of expression record has been fueled by the rampant culture of impunity enjoyed by those associated with power. Repressive laws, like the December 2007 Media Law used by the Transitional Federal Government, Somalia's old penal code and the anti-terrorism law have all been used to silence and persecute journalists.
As a civilian president with a history of civil society advocacy and an academic background, Somali citizens - and journalists in particular - have high hopes that you will break the cycle of repression and violence against journalists and bring about justice for violations committed.
The international community has expressed its willingness to assist with this challenging work. On 28 September 2012, a resolution on "Assistance to Somalia in the Field of Human Rights" was adopted by the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It calls upon the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia to "protect the safety of journalists" and "urges the State actors and non-State actors to refrain from intentional violence against and harassment of journalists and to respect freedom of expression."
In May this year, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the continued killings of journalists in Somalia, and calling on Somali authorities and all armed groups to end ongoing violations against journalists, media practitioners and media organisations. This resolution backs calls for an independent commission of inquiry by calling on Somali authorities, the African Union and the international community to support the establishment of an Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings of journalists and other violent attacks against them, so as to end the culture of impunity.
We the undersigned, strongly condemn the continuing violence, murder and heinous crimes committed against journalists of Somalia, in flagrant violation of freedom of expression and fundamental human rights.
As you embark on your four-year term as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, we urge you to:
1) Urgently carry out thorough investigations into the killings of journalists and other atrocious attacks against the media in a credible, transparent, trustworthy and impartial manner.
2) Take appropriate actions against the perpetrators of crimes against journalists, despite their association with existing political powers, and afford remedies and reparations to victims in line with Article 39 of the provisional constitution of Somalia on “redress of violations of human rights.”
3) Instruct the government in an open and consultative process to review the December 2007 media law to bring it in line with international standards of freedom of expression, and send back the draft communications bill (submitted by the preceding transitional federal government's ministry of information) for wider consultations with all concerned stakeholders in every part of the country, and end the use of penal code provisions to impede the work of journalists.
4) Guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of association for all journalists and media workers in line with Article 16 (Freedom of Association) and Article 18 (Freedom of Expression and Opinions) of the provisional constitution of Somalia.
5) Pursue the implementation of resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council and ACHPR to protect the safety of journalists in Somalia.
National Union of Somali Journalists
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centre for Independent Journalism
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Independent Journalism Center
Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
Institute of Mass Information
International Federation of Journalists
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Netherlands Association of Journalists
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
Public Association "Journalists"
Reporters Without Borders
West African Journalists Association
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
MISA South Africa